January 31, 2008

The Back Story III

I am finally discarding my oldest computer, which has the journal of our trip to Russia in 1996 and a number of documents pertaining to the adoption. So here, in a four-part series, is that journal from the boys' first four years with us.

May 2, 1998
A nightmare day! It was like deja vu! Our morning went OK with Hart and Howard going off to a session with Margie. Jeff and I picked up Joan for a rummage sale (it was good, got a few nice brand-name shirts and two toy trucks) and to pick out a new toilet at Home Depot to replace our upstairs one.

Hart would not take a nap and was very unruly in the afternoon. We had planned to take them for haircuts but Howard was pooped since we were out late seeing Titanic, and took a nap. The boys were very difficult just playing in the backyard. They put the cars in the bushes even though I told them not to several times since it is so muddy. Jeff again trampled our irises by parking his ride-in car on them, again after numerous admonitions. Finally, I woke up Howard and we set off, thinking we’d stop at Penny Park since the salon was fairly busy. Hart would not keep his hands to himself in the car. At the park, Jeff kept wandering off and finally had to have a time-out. Then Hart pooped in his pants and we had to go all the way back home to change. By the time we got to the salon, they weren’t taking any more customers so that was that.

Restaurant dinner was out of the question, so we stopped for sandwiches at a snack bar place. The boys were obnoxious until the food came and I was really wanted to just take it to go but Howard insisted on staying. They calmed down a bit to eat, then were unpleasant in the car and when we got home.

Both boys do this annoying thing–if you hold their hand walking, they walk like drunken sailors which drives me wild, especially if we are crossing the street. I now call this the “Gumby walk.” If Jeff wasn’t doing the Gumby Walk, he was running a block ahead and refusing to stop when called.

May 9, 1998
Night before Mother’s Day. The boys’ langugage has improved so that we hear new words and phrases and funny constructions. Jeff’s favorite phrase of the moment is “goofing around.” Hart and I were watching a video showing how cookies are commercially made. While rows of cookies were passing on the conveyor belt, Hart said, “I like cookies.” I said, “Yes, I like cookies, too.” Hart’s reply–”Break the window and get ’em.”

I found out yesterday that the bottle of Prozac was mislabeled and we have not been giving an adequate dose to either boy. Makes sense that the teachers report no change in Jeff, but I wonder why Hart had such a dramatic response. I hope now that things are straightened out we will see some improvement. Both boys, but particularly Jeff, are very obsessive and Prozac should help that.

May 10
Jeff had a very difficult time in gymnastics today. I don’t know what’s with him these days. Well, his latest passion is dandelions and the sticker festish persists.

Hart drew a recognizable cat today.

The boys must have been tired from gymnastics. They went to sleep for a one-hour nap very smoothly. When they got up, I took them to the zoo. I would have liked to find someone to come with us, but it went fine. I announced before we left that I had to have “good listening, and no running.” That seemed to be fine. I should have mentioned “no whining.” I guess that’s par for the course with 4-year-olds. They enjoyed the zoo but it was a duet of “Mommy, I want that, Mommy, I want go there, Mommy, I need this.” We saw the gorillas–we have been reading a book by Anthony Browne called Gorilla. We fed the geese, saw the camels and spent a few minutes at the Farm in the Zoo. There was a new litter of piglets which interested the boys. Both boys like the book Put Me in the Zoo, which is similar in style to Dr. Seuss. On the way home heading west, Jeff said, “The sun is too shiny for me.”

May 20
Beautiful warm weather. Yesterday was like summer–in the 90s. Hart can now write “H.” He is very interested in drawing and colors many pictures before bed almost every night. Last night he drew a boy, complete with face, hair and limbs; a car; a baby mouse and a Mommy mouse. Jeff is more technically-inclined. He likes using the stencils or having me guide his hand to draw something.

We had a terrible evening two nights ago. Jeff must have woken up around 1 am and gotten Hart up. Neither could go back to sleep. The party went on till 4:30 am. We tried separating them, threatening them, punishing them, talking to them, everything, but once they wake up, they can’t go back to sleep. Needless to say, H and I were wrecks the next day. Last night, it looked like more of the same, but we brought Jeff downstairs after about three warnings and Hart went right to sleep, then we took Jeff back upstairs.

May 23
Both boys have been pretty difficult lately, although they are quite pleasant when they aren’t together. The new thing is to yell, “It’s a bumpy road,” endlessly. We don’t know where they got that, but it has worn thin after about two weeks of chanting this endlessly. I bought $50 of filters for their air cleaner, got the thing apart and now can’t put it back together.

News from the JCC: Someone donated a whole batch of Barbie dolls to the boys’ classroom. Apparently they were quite a hit and Hart didn’t want to leave the J on Thursday, saying, “I want to play with the ladies.”

I found a toy at a garage sale that I thought the boys would enjoy. I had a similar set as a kid. It’s a set of straws and connectors to build with.

June 2
We have had some excitement. We went to the pool twice over the weekend and the boys were much calmer and easier than last year. Hart found a boy his age and they played together for most of the time. Saturday evening we went to Old Orchard for dinner and played briefly at the Great Train Store with the trains. The weather was so nice that we decided to stay a while longer and let the boys play on the dragon. I started talking to another parent of twin boys, while Howard romped around with ours. In one second, Jeff slid under and into the lattice-work pillar, announcing, “this is my house.” While we were maneuvering him down, Hart scrambled into a different pillar and used the lattice work as a ladder to get to the top, where there is a ledge just below the roof. We coaxed and cajoled, to no avail. The other parents and kids began to gather.

Finally I left Howard with Hart and Jeff and went to find a security guard. In a minute or two, there were about five security guard, two maintenance guys and a crowd of a hundred gathered. I could see Hart through the lattice–he didn’t seem hurt or frightened, maybe just bewildered by all the fuss. Roberta from the JCC happened along, and stayed to help give me moral support. Jeff was getting quite distressed and I had to ask Howard to take him away. After getting a longer ladder, the guys climbed up, pried off the cap of the pillar and lifted Hart out. A cheer went up from the, by now huge, crowd. He was dirty but otherwise OK. We beat it out of there fast. Hart was mad that we refused to give him the ice cream Howard promised if he climbed down…

Yesterday I was home early since it was Shavuot and there was no daycare. Alla was here for part of the afternoon, then we went to the park. There was a bigger boy being coached by his dad to try the fireman’s pole. Jeff ran over and announced, “I know how to do it,” and proceeded to demonstrate.

June 10
These past two weeks have been a continuous nightmare. The mischief has been so unrelenting that we can barely risk letting the boys be in the same room together. Last Thursday, they took their clothes off on the bus. When I came to pick them up from the J, they broke free, slid through the slats of a chained gate and wouldn’t come out of the bushes there until we formed a human chain and hauled them out.

On Friday, I got a call from school that Jeff drank another boy’s urine. He was holding a cup after snack time and followed C into the bathroom. As Ms. P put it, “He saw the hose with the apple juice…” The whole classroom was in an uproar. C was appalled, “Jeff drank my pee. Jeff drank my pee.” I conferred with Margie and Dr. H immediately and Jeff’s medication was changed. Ms. P says since, “He has been no angel, but has been more manageable.” Nowhere to go but up.

However, on Sunday the boys threw stuffed animals out of the moving car on Skokie Blvd. Today Hart managed to get over our back fence into the neighbor’s yard. Luckily, the dog wasn’t out. I had to go completely around the block to find him and, because of the dog, all their gates are chained shut. I am not sure about Jeff’s part in this escapade but it did result in a huge tear in a brand new pair of pants. I suspect Jeff tried the stunt first and got caught on the top of the fence or that he boosted Hart over.

June 12
The nightmare continues. Jeff catapulted over the R’s fence and made it all the way over to Crawford Avenue while the entire neighborhood searched frantically for him. After ten minutes I called the police, but finally B found him. I think we have to lock the boys in their room until they are twenty. Hart, of course, wanted to take off and help look so some adults had to stay behind and restrain him.

June 16
We are back from four days in Galveston Island, Texas. It was a nice trip, although the heat was so oppressive, it was impossible to do anything outdoors, except swim. It was close to 100˚ every day, with 100% humidity. Still the pool and beaches were nice. The hit of the trip was the built-in bunk beds in the room. The boys had to take turns sleeping on the top one. The boys saw their first movie in a theatre–at Moody Gardens IMAX theatre. You wear special 3-D glasses. Hart was sitting with me and was taken with the 3-D illusion. He kept trying to touch the images and I kept explaining that it was magic through the glasses that made it look like you could touch things. When the little girl blew bubbles, he kept reaching out to pop them. At one point, a space ship floated “towards” us and Hart said, “It’s coming by US!”

The railroad museum was nice, despite the heat. The boys liked the model railroad which had plexi tubes for children to stand under so that the trains were at eye level. We rode the ferry and the trolley (HOT!) around downtown. We ate at one fancy restaurant and the boys comported themselves somewhat appropriately. We ate lots of great cheap Mexican food–Jeff gorged himself on tortilla chips. Today we ate at a Vietnamese buffet for lunch. We lost Jeff’s beloved toy stingray somewhere in Texas, but luckily the ray has a brother who has been living in my closet for a while.

July 1
I returned from four days in Washington DC (ALA Conference) fearing the worst. Howard reported that on Thursday, Hart ran away from Grandpa again en route to the J and was in disgrace.

Howard and I had discussed starting the new Rx (Risperdal) on my return but I encouraged him to go ahead with it. I could tell when my taxi pulled up that things had changed for the better. Howard said the weekend went fine and on Monday, both the teachers at Dawes and JCC were incredulous at the remarkable change. The boys are much more cooperative, much more communicative and in general, not as demonic as they have been for the past miserable month.

However, this evening I took them to the pool and they were fine, delightful until we were getting ready to leave. Then they took off through the men’s changing room and made it out and all the way across the park to the playground (without shoes). I realized that they were probably long gone by the time I got one of the male lifeguards to look in the men’s room. They were up on the top of the slide when I dashed over. I called once loudly, causing everyone is the park to turn, except, of course, Hart or Jeff. About a half dozen teenagers scrambled up the slide when I announced I’d give a dollar to the first person who caught both boys. I am not a single dollar lighter as not one kid could catch them, but they did cause the boys to take off down the slide where I could grab them at ground level.

On a more promising note, I signed the boys up for summer reading club at the Library and the incentive of reading to earn little prizes seems to work. Shira and I took them last night and let them choose their own books. I read Jeff No Ducks in Our Bathtub and he really liked it. I read Hart about three books. I think they are being contrite since they misbehaved at the pool. We got the tape Balto again from the Library and they really love it.

July 7
Things have really gone from bad to worse. The running away is epidemic. I was called from school yesterday in the morning. Some leaves got caught in the bus and the hilarity of this pushed the boys over the edge and they couldn’t settle down to participate at all. Then I got a call from the J that Jeff had run away from Grandpa just as the car door was opened. He hid again in the front courtyard. Hart, to his credit, tried to lure Jeff out, but without success.

Unfortunately, Hart’s new thing is cutting up his clothes with scissors. He ruined yet another t-shirt yesterday.

Today Alla was completely distraught when I came home. Both boys had run away from the R’s yard (I don’t think this behavior is winning any friends with our neighbors, by the way.) Little Tommy immediately directed Alla and Agathe in their direction. I guess they made it four houses away by hurtling fences–because of the rain, it’s very wet out. Hart lost a shoe and sock in flight. (Howard took him back there to find it, thankfully.) I have spoken to Margie about a behaviorist, possibly a child psychiatrist, because this can’t go on.

July 8
What’s going on? Today, the boys were angels. I called the JCC to be sure someone would meet Grandpa and I cautioned the staff to expect the worst. The boys had a great afternoon and were chatty and charming when I went to pick them up.

We started a new sitter to replace Shira who leaves for Philadelphia at the end of the month. Eva seems fine and quite self-possessed and mature for an 11-year-old. I took the boys to the Library as a treat to report on their books. They got rubber frog finger puppets for this visit. When we got home, they took their bath and got popsicles as an additional reward. I hope they have figured out that playing with a nice Mommy, going on outings and getting sugary treats from Daddy sure beats spending the evening in “time out,” as they have done for the past two evenings.

July 14
I guess we are in a winning streak. The weekend went well and the boys have been talkative and well-behaved. Nathan came over last night and the guys played well together and the parting went smoothly. When Alla arrived this morning, Jeff said, “Hi, Alla, How you doing?”

Hart is still into drawing. He made some American flags this evening, completely drawn from memory and a nifty drawing, “Boy in Bathtub.” Jeff drew one picture and lost interest. Both boys are using the mat which has the town and roads. They arrange their cars over it and actually play with it as the manufacturer intended. Great progress.

July 17
Beate called from the JCC to tell me how wonderfully the boys are doing. I hope this keeps up. They are a joy.

Still drilling them on name, address and phone numbers. I occasionally ask, “What’ s Mommy’s other name?” hoping they will reply, “Lydia,” if anyone ever asks. They other day when I asked, “What’s Mommy’s other name?” Hart piped up, “Mommy S--!”

Jeff has developed some odd fears, although he can articulate them. Every evening he says his tree (the one outside his window) is “scary.” Howard thinks he saw a videotape of a scary tree. I am not sure if it’s the big branch jutting out that scares him…he says that’s the scary part… or that he is afraid it will break. I talked to him about how strong and old the tree is.

July 18, 1998
We spent the morning at Great America for the annual office outing. The boys liked it–Howard wanted to take them on the rides HE likes and pooh-poohed the kiddie rides. However, the boys liked the little boats, the helicopters etc in Looney Toon Land. Howard did take them on two flume rides. We rode the little rollercoaster which still terrified me. Hart said, “I don’t like this.” I had my eyes closed the whole time. We had lunch there and then the boys got difficult. There was a long time for the Looney Toon train which was a tough wait for them. It was definitely time to go. Later the boys played in the wading pool and we ate a light dinner at home.

July 23
Yesterday Hart ate about a pound of broccoli for dinner. Today he was disappointed that we were having peas but announced, “I like green!” I think both boys are natural vegetarians. Alla gives them lots of salad and I don’t think they have met a veggie they don’t like. Shira has one more week with us. However, yesterday when I announced that Eva was coming, Jeff yelled, “I love Eva. I love her” so I guess we have found a happy replacement. Tomorrow is the last day of summer school and the last day in the same classroom where they have been for two years. We’ll miss Dawn, our aide and the regular bus driver. In fall, it will be a whole new cast.

July 28
I took Hart with me to a Festival of Cultures dinner and he was delightful, although overly chatty. He took a shine to Rosa and tried to talk to her the whole evening.

The bad news is: it looks like Alla may leave us. I think Jeff’s running away really did it. She couched it in terms of getting a new job, not having time for school, but when pressed, admitted that the boys have been too difficult. Early this summer was hell, without a doubt. Howard and I felt the stress of it. I hope to speak to her and convince her to change her mind but it does not look too hopeful.

July 30
Tonight was Shira’s last night with us. She brought a toy Wallace and a toy Gromit for the boys’ birthday. We got a big laugh because I had gotten her the same toy Gromit as a going-away present. We encouraged them to say good-bye to Shira since she is moving away. To that Hart replied, “Are you taking your boy with you?” meaning Shira’s younger brother Nadav. Hart and Jeff love Nadav because he is a big kid of seven, but recently they reduced Nadav to tears by being too loud and overwhelming. When Barbara asked Nadav what was wrong, he said, “They’re going to kill me!”

August 4
The boys had their annual checkup today. They are both 40 inches tall. Hart weighs 40 lbs and Jeff weighs 40.5 lbs. Every time we go there I swear I will change pediatricians. No chit chat, no interaction with the boys, no accommodation for ADHD. I always feel like a wreck after going there and the boys behaved well enough. Hart observed that he is not a baby anymore. I said, “Yes, you are a big boy.” And he said, “I will be a man?”

We are starting to talk about school which starts in a few weeks. It looks like the boys will be separated which necessitates going to different schools. When I mentioned, “one school for Hart, one school for Jeff,” Jeff started weeping, saying, “I lose my Hart!”

August 14
We survived the birthday party last Sunday. We had ten kids, eight guests. Rian and Dale, Ellie and Matthew, Gal and Roman from the JCC, Nathan and Aaron. It was pretty much controlled bedlam. The McDonald’s has a cute party room and an outdoor playground. Most of the parents stayed and Ted and Allison came. It ran a little longer than the hour and forty-five minutes I’d planned on but all in all, everything went OK.

Alla is indeed leaving us after all this time. However, Scott, Jeff’s gymnastics aide, is available for after-school care. We have some reservations since he is young, only high school age, but we will give this a try. I am relieved to find someone who will care for the boys’ here in our house.

August 21
Today was the last day at the JCC. It is the last day of daycare. The other kids will have a week off and then move into a new room. But we are done for good. Frankly, they are probably happy to see the back of us. Hart and Jeff had a tough year there. There was lots of hugging and Julie told me that Roman was very sad to see the boys go. The three have been a wild troika all this year. Jeff paused at the door and yelled, “Goodbye, goodbye everybody.”

We saw Masumi, Rei and Kei last night. We went to Chuck E Cheese because Kei was so keen to go but I really should have learned my lesson by now. It’s too hard to keep an eye on them and the toys and activities don’t keep them out of mischief. The boys got fixated on the ribbons on some kid’s birthday presents and were very obnoxious and kept disrupting the party. In the car, they reduced Kei to tears because they wouldn’t keep their hands off him.

I spoke to Dr. H today about my concerns: impulsivity, obliviousness to social cues, among other things. I am totally weirded out by the fact that they have NOW developed their own language that they prefer to use. We hope the separation at school will help. Dr. H is going to recommend someone to do some behavior therapy with them.

Aug 27
We saw Mom off to the airport after a four-day visit. The boys loved having her here. We took them to the pool and around the neighborhood. I have this week off as the JCC is closed, so it was nice having Mom to assist. The boys love Granny.

Today was Alla’s last day. We took the boys to Village Hall for innoculations and then they spent the rest of the day with her while I did errands. At the end of the day, Marthe, Agathe and some of the other neighbor parents, Jodi, Rebecca and Gregg came by to wish her well.

Scott was here last night for an orientation, of sorts. It looks like it will work out well. The boys were very hyper and wild, additionally excited about Scott’s presence. It seems now that the medication turns off promptly at 6:30 and then all hell breaks loose. It may be a difficult transition to the new school schedule, new sitter etc.

Aug 31
Today was the first day of school. We saw the boys off onto their respective buses, which come one half hour apart, and Howard used his new camcorder to document the occasion. I think we were more excited that they were. After all, they are used to riding the school bus. Jeff came home utterly exhausted but reported that he had played outside and painted.

Hart fell asleep on the bus. Tomorrow is the first full day with lunchboxes and Scott meeting them. Both teachers reported that the boys had good days. I think the hassle of separating them paid off.

Sept 4
We are settling in to the new school routine. I can see that it is working out fine. We have had several reports from Hart’s teacher, “he loved the smelly markers,” “he enjoyed the visit to the science lab,” but no word from Jeff’s teacher. Now we have a four-day weekend with Labor Day and a day off for Teacher In-Service Day. Scott seems to be working out well. The boys love him and he has lots of energy and a laid-back attitude that leaves him unstressed at the end of the day. Jeff comes home early and usually takes a nap. Hart sleeps on the bus since he is the last dropoff. Then the wild rumpus begins.

The boys have some new favorite books, Curious George, and a book about two cats, Max and Minnie. I have been experimenting with some different videos. Jeff still loves the trucks and construction tapes. They have outgrown Barney and Kidsongs. We have two new stuffed toy cats, Zach, which Hart named and Tippy, which I named, since I didn’t like Kitty or Catty or another Zach which were the names the boys suggested.

Sept 6
Yesterday was Saturday and the boys were OK until the evening. Howard and I have been taking them to walk along the lake near NU’s campus. They like to see the boat house and the students surfing and boating. However, they are so reckless and inattentive to the bikers, skaters and water’s edge that it can be absolutely nerve-wracking.

It is unseasonably hot now. Yesterday we went to the pool and the boys latched on to this hapless baby who was at first delighted with their attention and then increasingly distressed when they wouldn’t lay off. Hart kissed her and shared his shovel with her. Then he commandeered Jeff’s shovel for her, too. They followed her all over for a long time. Jeff started splashing her and waving his leaves in her face. It seems they just get stuck on an idea or action and nothing can pry them loose.

We had a bit of a scene today. I was working upstairs when I heard a thump in the basement. I asked Howard to have a look. When I came downstairs several minutes later, Howard was still watching TV. Rushing down to the basement, I found my brand-new Scrabble set destroyed, letters scattered everywhere and the game board ripped to shreds. They have apparently outwitted the childproof locks on the cabinet and help themselves whenever our backs our turned. I was furious at all three of them. I spent the evening inventorying the letters and searching for missing one. The game board is a dead loss.

Sept 13
Busy weekend. We were at gymnastics this morning. We had only Scott as an aide so he took Hart and Jeff managed by himself with only his teacher’s help. We are going to a birthday party for Sammy and then I am hosting book club here. What was I thinking?

I hope to hear from Dr. H tomorrow. At school, they are giving the medication so early that the boys go beserk right at 5:30 and the evenings are really unpleasant. I don’t know if they are outgrowing the dose, the nap or the timing is off. Anyway, it’s been hard. Jeff is so reckless that he runs into the path of oncoming cars with regularity. This has happened a couple times in the evenings. Also, I can’t let them ride bikes once the meds wear off. They are too wild and oblivious to danger. Hart ran headlong into the R’s van recently. Luckily no damage to the car, but he flew off, splat, into the car.

I have been trying to read some classic fairy tales. The boys love The Three Little Pigs. They have been so tired that they go to sleep at the same time and it is impossible to get their attention for a story together.

Sept 22
We are back from a weekend in Ann Arbor. The boys were pretty good on the long car ride, but the weekend wasn’t much fun for me at Howard’s law school reunion. The boys were well-behaved enough at the childcare program that was provided.

We have a year’s membership at a new synagogue and took Hart and Jeff to the children’s service on Rosh Hashana. Again, they were fine, if a bit fidgety. Then we left them for a bit at the babysitting in the preschool. It was a beautiful day so they played on the playground in their nice clothes. Today was the first day back to school after the long weekend. Both boys seemed eager to go and Scott reported that they were great with him and he did not need to give an early dose of medication. I think they feel more comfortable on their regular schedule.

It is really fall now. The boys wore long pants for the first time in months. They have sprouted up over the summer and many things are now too short.

Sept 30
Today was Yom Kippur. I took the boys to the children’s service. Jeff fell asleep near the end: he has another ear infection. Hart was with Howard for a while and also fell asleep in the big sanctuary. Then the played outside at the Gan with the babysitters. We were supposed to have a playdate with Gali, but it rained. I took the boys at 5 p.m.to Old Orchard and then to IHOP for dinner. At Old Orchard, they wanted to go into a shoe store(?). I said OK, as long as they didn’t touch anything. Hart replied, “I have to touch things to see them well.”

Oct 8
Things have been going along well. However, Scott told me he is leaving so I have had a frenzied week trying to make other arrangements. Today I got a call that there two spaces in the Evanston afterschool care program. Hurray!

The boys are in good humor today. Nathan and Clara came over yesterday and everyone played together nicely. Today Hart was using the stick horse, announcing, “I gappelling.”

Oct 14
Hart is going on his first school field trip tomorrow. All the kindergartners are going to a pumpkin farm. He is extremely excited. School has made an amazing impression on him. He loves Ms. B, his teacher. This evening, out of nowhere, he recited the Pledge of Allegiance. A few words were garbled, but it was a recognizable Pledge. At dinner when I wiped his mouth, he said, “Don’t wipe my eyebrows.” Maybe they are working on body parts?

Howard and I met with a behavioral therapist this evening. Although things are going fairly well, I still think we could use the added input. Dr. L deals with a lot of ADHD kids and seems to have a handle on the situation.

October 17, 1998
Hart and I went into the city in the driving rain to pick up the printout of my book from the OUTLINES office. He was pretty good-natured on the loooong drive. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and he was pretty rambunctious. Luckily, there weren’t a lot of people there. While our waiter was standing respectfully off to the side, watching us to make sure everything was OK, Hart looks up and says, “Why you standing there? GO WORK!” The waiter and I were both doubled over with laughter.

October 26, 1998
Aunt Mady was here over the weekend and the boys were on best behavior and made a good impression. It was a hectic weekend with me running downtown to get Mady, gymnastics on Sunday, then a birthday party and Exploritorium (a nightmare of a design). However, the guys have been doing very well. It’s funny now that they are really speaking “like people.” Today Hart said, “Just a second!” and “I’m just kidding.” The afterschool care is going just great. I think they really benefit from being the youngest. When I pick them up they are generally interacting with an older kid. Hart did not want to leave today–an older girl of about eight or nine was assisting him with an art project, a haunted house made of cover milk cartons.

November 1
What an exciting few days. On Friday, I schlepped the boys downtown to the Chicago Tribune for their modeling gig. Jeff was a real trooper, modeling a blue blazer, striped shirt and tie, just like Daddy wears. Hart was wearing about six layers of clothes including a Ralph Lauren sweater with a flag on it and adorable Birkenstøck sandals. However, his patience wore thin and he wouldn’t really cooperate. I guess it was worth it, since they will be in the Chicago Tribune and I took pictures myself of them in those amazing clothes. I don’t think this is the start of a career

Then I drove them back north in time for their respective Halloween parties at school. I was just in time to get Jeff there for the costume parade. It was very cute. The boys are wearing the chef outfits Ted got them. They got a lot of compliments but Hart wants to be Batman and Jeff announced his wants to be a tiger. Next year, I guess.

Chicago Tribune, November 1997

All the aftercare kids were bused to Northwestern University, so they got even more candy there. We didn’t get home until well after 6:30 and the boys were pretty wild with excitement and sugar.

We had an uneventful morning yesterday, Halloween. I took them shopping, since we need a few birthday party gifts. Then at around 3:30 p.m., we dressed them up in the chef clothes and took them out trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. We started out with Zach and Christian, then Aaron and his dad joined us and then we caught up with the big St. Joan gang, including the Rs, As and more. We did the 9500 block, then followed the gang over a few blocks. Jeff was going strong but Hart kept saying he wanted to go home, so we cut back through and came home. The boys spent the rest of the hour passing out candy which I think they really preferred.

Nov 3
We attended an activity night at Jeff’s school. It was nice meeting the other parents, if nothing else. Howard said he got depressed. When we arrived, the kids descended on Jeff, yelling, “Jeffrey, Jeffrey!” and running up to hug him. Then they caught sight of Hart and started yelling, “Two Jeffreys, there are two Jeffreys!” It didn’t help that Hart’s glasses broke beyond repair and he can’t wear them. We’ll go to Lenscrafters tomorrow. Luckily, they are still under warranty.

Nov 5
Both boys are sick so I am home today with them. Jeff was sent home yesterday from school. He can’t shake this ear infection despite several rounds of antibiotics. He spent the morning sleeping in my office and the afternoon at Grandma’s. Then I took Hart to Lenscrafters. He could barely stay upright. We chose the frames and came right home and he went to bed. They know Hart so well at Lenscrafters that the manager didn’t charge the $50 replacement for the new pair. They are very cute, with little cars on the bridge. I didn’t get cable temples this time–I think he is bends them out of shape while yanking them off.

Nov 11, 1998
Hart is still under the weather and sleeping a lot, so I have been talking with Jeff more than usual. Yesterday at dinner:
J: I like milk. Milk makes stong arms. Feel!
L: How strong!
J: Gimme more milk–I want to be more strong.

Both boys are drilling at school, name, address, age, boy or girl, etc.
L: Are you a girl or a boy?
J: I’m a kid!

Nov 18
It’s been a tough week. The boys’ sleep patterns have gone awry. Hart gets up at 5:30 a.m., wakes Jeff, eats breakfast. Then Jeff goes back to sleep, misses breakfast and is impossible to rouse for school. He still has an ear infection, despite three rounds of antibiotics and new drops. Afterschool care is going great–Jeff is the pet of the whole program. The older girls fight over who holds his hand and by the teacher’s account, he is eating it up. A teacher moved from Hart’s site to Jeff’s and apparently, not knowing that Hart is a twin, kept asking Jeff where his glasses were. Jeff never told her that he wasn’t Hart and finally one of the teachers told her, “That’s not Hart! It’s his twin brother.”

Jeff has watched An American Tail, about a zillion times. He says it is his favorite. A few days ago, he announced, “My tummy’s crying. It wants food.”

Today Hart asked me when my birthday was.

November 24
We had a tough weekend and I have a call in to Dr. H to see if anything is related to the medication. The boys have been very impulsive and distractible. Lots of weird noises and misbehavior.

However, we have had some “firsts.” Hart’s first tooth is loose. The boys got their first report cards on Friday. Hart’s strongest marks were in drama, which he likes, and in gym. Movement seems to be his strength, no surprise. Jeff’s report card says, “Emerging skills,” in almost all categories. We had our conference with Jeff’s teachers yesterday and will meet with Hart’s today.

We discussed the “twin talk” which Jeff apparently uses at school, too. We thought it was just between the two of them. Although Howard and I aren’t conversant in this language we do recognize a few phrases, “roni-roni,” “moni-moni,” “abu abu abu,” “amoo,” “yoni yoni,” “yak a yoo yak,” “yak a yoo mak,” “mah der” and Hart’s name for our new vacuum cleaner, which may have fallen out of use, “choosy roni.”

We had a new cleaning lady yesterday, so Hart announced, “I check him out!” His other new favorite words, picked up from day care, are “gross” and “nasty.”

November 28
Thanksgiving went fine and yesterday, Friday, was OK. We are having unheard-of warm weather. It’s been in the mid-sixties, so the boys have been biking and playing outside. We recently changed Jeff’s medication and it seems to be successful, but Hart has been ornery and defiant. Oy.

We went to the circus today. The boys were OK during the first half but at intermission a catered feast was brought into the the suite and sent the boys into a frenzy, not so much for the food (which was not for us) but for collecting plates and cups which they proceeded to bang during the second half. During the high wire act there was some screaming and whimpering. I don’t think we’ll go next year. It will be more of a treat to do it occasionally.

We are having a terrible problem with spitting, particularly Hart. If he’s mad, disagrees or sometimes just when he feels like it, he’ll spit. Sometimes he says, “pooh pooh pooh” and on the last “p,” splat! He has had a few time-outs for this and I have also tried ignoring it but to no avail. And, now Jeff seems to be picking this up.

The boys appeared in this weekend’s Sunday Tribune in their modeling debut. Very cute.
Hart wanted to ask for something but he couldn’t quite get at the word. “I want more…I want more…,” as we desperately tried to think what it was he wanted. He got more and more frustrated until he blurted out, “cherry-berries.” Aha, cranberries!

Dec 7
What a weekend. Jeff has been under the weather and I think Howard and I are both getting sick, too. Every evening Jeff would start writhing and screaming, then complaining his tummy hurt. I returned last night from book club around 10 p.m. and could hear him yelling in his bed. He woke Hart up, so we took him downstairs until he fell asleep on the couch. Even so, every few minutes he would double over and start screaming again. Since he couldn’t calm down in his bed, we brought him into our room. Again, everytime we dozed off, he would go off again. I finally ended up sleeping on the floor with him, wrapped around him, enduring being kicked most of the night. I kept rubbing his belly and that seemed to calm him into sleep…for a while. We thought it might be constipation, but I think there was some psychological component, too, maybe night terrors. Today at bedtime, he started whining again about his stomach hurting but I held firm, “No screaming tonight. You must sleep in your own bed.”

Two funny comments: Jeff points to the salad on his plate, “Put some clothes on it.”

Hart built a big box with the waffle blocks. “I build a big house, a big house…a HOTEL.”

December 14
Second night of Hanukah. The boys are, of course, into presents, presents, more presents. Last night they got Hot Wheels trucks. I think we must have an entire fleet now. Tonight they got bug puppets, a bee for Hart and a grasshopper for Jeff. Jeff wanted the bee so there was a little disappointment over that but then the bee and grasshopper played together and all was well.

We started working with a new child psychologist. Although we love Margie, I think this one has a great plan. So far, it seems to be working wonders. We had a terrific weekend, even though Howard had to spend most of it at his office. So it was just me and the boys. As per Dr. Lavigne’s instructions, I lavish praise for appropriate behavior, as often as every 15 seconds. Any inappropriate behavior that isn’t life-threatening gets no attention or eye contact whatsoever. I have stopped yelling completely and the burden is off me to wrangle two misbehaving kids at once. I just step away and avert my eyes! I have also been using cereal pieces or stickers as re-inforcers for appropriate behavior and that has helped, too. However, I notice that the boys respond positively to just having our attention.

Hart has been singing “Dreydel, Dreydel” at the top of his lungs. He only knows the first two lines. He also sings his original version of Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. When we picked babysitter Leah up, he sang all the way home and Leah and I cracked up.

Both boys’ speech and language ability is much, much improved. Jeff is the pet of his day care. His teacher reports she has to keep the other kids off him. I think they imagine him as some kind of living, walking, talking doll. Hart is very much into his stuffed animals. We have Zach the cat, the two Whaleys, Little Bear. His friend Annie has quite a collection of Beanie Babies, so Hart is now interested in “baby babies.” As much bad press as “Teletubbies” get, the boys like the show and I think the language is perfect for them (although the show is aimed at toddlers.) Hart calls them “tebe-tubbies.”

Dec 19
Yesterday Hart and I stopped at Happy Foods on the way home. He kept nagging me for a big lollipop he saw in a displayed jar of them. Exasperated by my answer, he appealed to the cashier. “Can I have this?” “You have to buy it,” she told him. “OK,” says Hart, placing it on the belt. I was still half an aisle away. “Do you have money?” the cashier asks. “Yes,” he says. “Where is it?” Clearly and loudly enough to be heard by the whole store, “In Mommy’s purse!” he says, pointing to me. Big laughs all around (but still no sucker.)

December 23
The boys have attended the Park District Holiday Camp for two days and it seems to have gone well. There is one other kid who requires an inclusion aide, so I think there are either two or three aides just to assist Hart, Jeff and that kid. They went to a play and a laser light show. Today I was home with them, since the field trip is an outing to an indoor water park. Hart has a sinus infection and Jeff has yet another ear infection.

We spent the morning at the Shedd Aquarium. We went early enough that it was not crowded at all. We arrived in time to look around at the rays, the seahorse exhibit, the Oceanarium and dolphin demonstration there. When the announcer asked for members of the audience to tell what behaviors they expected to see, Hart’s hand shot up. When she came over, he said he wanted to see “slipping (flipping) and jumping in the water. "

Jan 2, 1999
Snowbound. Howard has been hysterical for two days waiting for the big blizzard and here it is. We went out last night to Leona’s and the boys were on very good behavior. Hart has started getting over-enthusiastic around babies and toddlers, jumping in their faces, grabbing them and yelling, “Gross baby!” Parents don’t appreciate this much and I was summoned twice yesterday, once at McDonald’s and once in Leona’s movie room.

Jan 3
Still stuck at home. Our driveway has over two feet of snow. It was a tough day yesterday, although Howard took the boys out on the sled and for a backyard romp. They have been outdoors today once. I watched from the window as Hart stuck his head in a snow drift, glasses and all. We have already “painted” on the computer and baked muffins. I will have to be creative this afternoon. Hope there is school tomorrow, although I can’t imagine how I will get to work or pick the boys up.

Jan 12, 1999
This winter has been miserable. Still very cold and snowy. Howard had a tough day with the boys on Saturday. We took them to dinner separately. As Jeff and I were leaving Bakers Square, there was a long line waiting to be seated. “There’s too much peoples here!,” Jeff announces.
Jeff has been earning stamps on his behavior chart as school, but from all reports he lets loose at afterschool care.

Hart is a budding thespian. He got good remarks from his teacher on his activities in drama. He demonstrated his mime. He washes a window, walks a dog, gets blown in the wind, very convincingly.

Jan 17
We attended the festivities after the service, in honor of Eva’s bat mitzvah. The boys were very excited and wanted to hang out exclusively with Eva. After an elaborate kiddush, it dawned on me that there was yet a sitdown luncheon to follow. I kept an eye on the boys while the room was changed over. They wanted to be with the other kids, but somehow playing around on the bimah proved irrestible. We lasted through the salad and left after Eva’s speech. I think Jeff had some schnapps, since he told me he drank “spicy water.”

Feb 3
Hart announced that he wanted a dog. When I asked what he was going to do with a dog, he said, “Play with him.” Leah asked what kind of dog he wanted and Hart replied, “Clifford!”

I flipped on the radio in the car to catch the signoff on National Public Radio, just as the host said, “I’m Terry Gross and this has been Fresh Air.” Jeff pipes up in the back seat, “He say ‘gross.’” That was pretty funny but when I tried to explain that her NAME was Gross, that was hysterical.

I have noticed some strange twin things. On the same day, both boys independently said, “Mommy, you need a haircut.” Yesterday, there was a beautiful clear sky and a full moon. As Hart and I were picking up Jeff, I pointed it out and said, “Look we can see the stars tonight.” Hart started jumping, saying, “I catch the stars.” Later when we went to drop Eva off, Jeff looks up and says, “I catching stars.”

Hart’s speech has become much more sophisticated in the past few weeks. Although he still can’t say /f/ or /v/, he can make more elaborate constructions. Yesterday he asked Eva, “Have you seen this movie before?”

Feb 6
We had a play date today with Dale and Lia here. It went very well and I see the boys interacting more with other kids. Hart is going over to Annie’s this afternoon. This is his second time over there…without me.

I have gotten several bad reports from Ms. B about Hart. He and Candice are a lethal pair and they told me at daycare that Candice’s father has taken her off medication!

Poor Jeff! We have just been running hither and thither to doctors. Yesterday he was at the allergist since he has eczema all over now. Dr. C thinks it must be a food allergy and advises doing a second scratch test. Dr. C was happy to hear about the plan to remove Jeff’s tonsils and adenoids. It is really warranted in a case as severe as his ear infections have been. Next week we are seeing a plastic surgeon about removing the birthmark on his leg at the same time as the tonsilectomey. I am also taking him to the opthamologist. His school reports indicates some trouble with his right eye. If he wears glassese, no one will be able to tell them apart.

Feb 8
We had a hairy night last night. Hart awoke at 3 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. We finally brought him into our room, but he had already woken Jeff. I could hear him talking to himself, singing all the songs he knows, to no avail. I was just drifting off again when I heard him say, “Once upon a time, there was one zebra and one ant.” Howard took him downstairs around 4 am and gave him breakfast. When I came downstairs at 7 a.m., both boys were asleep on the couch. Hart’s teacher said he had an OK day but was very tired. So were we.

February 14
Last night we watched Mulan which has just been released on video. When Hart saw the trailer, he asked, “Is that Poken-hontas?” I told him it wasn’t, it’s a different girl. In fact Pochahontas lives here in this country and Mulan lives far away in China. “Oh,” Hart said thoughtfully, “Maybe they’re friends.”

Feb 16
The boys are very interested in board games these days. We have an Alphabet Lotto game which is the favorite. We have gotten in the habit of playing every day now. I like it because it’s a structured (and educational) activity that we can do together. Hart insists we play, “three games,” showing me ten fingers. By the way, both boys can count to twenty pretty consistently now and Hart can write his name recognizably.

I bought two other board games recently, Shopping List, which is both a matching game like Lotto and a memory game like Concentration. It took a few games to catch on but Jeff has the strategy now and he pays attention to the location of the cards. I also introduced a simple picture Bingo game. The winner gets to be the caller for the next game. There used to be a big hue and cry if one lost the game but with Lotto we count the cards until the loser’s winning cards are revealed and that seems to work as a consolation.

Feb 20
Hobbes has never been to interested in the boys but when I am putting them to bed, she will occasionally come by and have a look. Two nights ago, she stayed in their room while I was singing to Jeff, then I said, “Hobbes, come on, it’s time to sing to Hart.” She dutifully came over to Hart’s side of the room. As I started sing, Hart exclaimed indignantly, “He’s not singing!”
Took Jeff to the eye doctor and he has a slight astigmatism but does not need glasses. He was OK in Debbie’s office but of course, never stopped moving. I was surprised that he was cooperative in taking the eye exam and was able to indentify the images.

Returned from Matthew's brithday party completed exhausted. The boys were moderately well behaved–for them–but it just kills me that the other parents get to sit around, kids in their laps, chatting, while I run and run and run. My knees are shot: they live a tri-level and I spent two and a half hours running up and down three flights of stairs. The most innoucuous item is a major distraction for them, the balloon decorations (up onto the couch with shoes on within moments of arriving), Jeff spied the scotch tape in the kitchen, excercise equipment in the basement…

It was all three-year-olds except us and those kids managed to leave the presents alone and allow the birthday boy to open them. They managed to watch the clown. Jeff kept interupting this hapless clown until I took him out, Hart thought he was part of the show, which was cute for about three seconds. Of course, all the adults want to accommodate them but they have no idea about the magnitude of the quirks and obsessions: the scotch tape, the crepe paper, the paper plates. We can’t indulge it at all.

It took us three false starts to actually leave, once because Jeff had disobeyed me and taken all the contents of goodie bag out, then lost his stickers, then Hart remembered that he had forgotten his balloon rabbit and had to retrieve it. On the way home, he took it apart and then popped the balloon.

Feb 22
Hart has announced now a few times that he wants Clissord (Clifford, the big red dog). Today he said he wants Clifford for a birthday present. He is going to ride him and play with him. When I pointed out that Clifford is bigger than our house and might not fit, Hart insisted, “I squeeze him in.”

Feb 28
I told Jeff that the ball he was playing with had been mine when I was a little girl. “It’s not yours anymore,” he said.

March 8
Jeff continues to be interested in vehicles. His points out Jeeps and he likes VW Beetles, ever since he saw one and exclaimed, “A toy car!” Tonight on the way home, Hart saw a similar-looking SUV and said, “Look, a jeep!” “That’s not a Jeep. A Jeep has a square top.” He was right. It was an Isuzu.

March 13
I attended the PNPIC’s conference in Itasca today. Saw Dee Paddock whom I met there two years ago. She was the keynote speaker. It’s very reassuring that someone has gone the path before us. Her three adopted Korean children are now in their teens and she says, “adoptive parents pay up front.” Apparently, adolescence is a cinch! It was great to see her and joke about Hart’s adventure at Old Orchard and being banned from the J. Someone who understands!

The boys spent the morning with sitter Leah and she said they were great. We took Leah home and played a while at Penny Park. Hart’s language is so much improved that he easily joins other kids now. For dinner, we met Dawn and her two daughters at Old Orchard’s food court. Hart glommed onto Hannah who is eight. Grace was a little tired and felt about left out since Jeff followed Hart’s lead and hung out with Hannah.

Howard made it home at 8:15 so he got to see the boys for a change. He was astonished at Hart’s speech. It’s been hard on the boys not having him around, but then it’s like a disruption when he does arrive. One more month of this grind.

Hart told me on the way home from school yesterday that if I am in jail, with “handcups,” he will save me by breaking the cage and helping me escape. I thanked him for his good intentions, but reassured him that I hope not to ever be in jail.

March 19
It’s been a tough week without Howard. Last night I was so stressed after the boys refused to come in the house after I picked them up that I gave them timeouts and screamed at them. Later Jeff said, “Mommy, you talk crazy and say mean things to me.” That about sums it up.

March 28
Granny is coming today. Jeff will have his tonsils out on Tuesday, then Wednesday is the first night of Passover.

We attended Jeff’s classroom open house last Thursday. Hart got indignant when one of Jeff’s classmates mistook him for Jeff. “He call me Jeff. I not Jeff. I Hart.” We calmed him down and told him to say, “I am Jeff’s brother. My name is Hart.” A few minutes later, Hart ran over to the same kid, took off his glasses and said, “I not Hart now. I Jeff.” Then he put his glasses back on and said, “I am just teasing. I Hart.”

April 4
We took Mom to the airport yesterday. Jeff slept for about three days, then bounced back. He seems to be completely recovered. When the nurse came to check Jeff’s vitals, she asked where his heart is. “At school.”

We had dinner last night with Grandma and Grandpa.

April 7
Jeff’s throat is still a little sore and he has be careful what he eats. This morning he started crying because something was irritating his throat. “Who took Jeff’s tonsils out?” Hart asked. I told him Dr. S had done it. “Well, Jeff wants them back in!”

April 17
The boys are going through a belligerent stage. If I hear “Shut up, you stupid Mommy,” one more time… Hart has another ear infection, but Jeff seems to be doing well since the tonsils came out. Next week, the stitches are being removed where the mole was taken off.

April 25
We went to see babysitter Leah in her high school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last night. It seemed like a good idea–short, musical with lots of visuals. The first act went fine, but during the second act, Jeff slid under his seat, Hart joined him, and in a flash they were gone, slithering somewhere under the seats in the dark. It was harrowing, as there was nothing we could do (except blame each other in terse whispers). Finally, I saw Hart's head bob up in the center aisle and I sprinted down to collect him. Our whole section breathed a sign of relief, but we didn't find Jeff until the show was over and the lights came up. I think it was his plan to collect all the programs under the seats. It may be a while before we take them back to the theater.

May 9
Our weekend in Arizona went fine and we returned to find Gin and the house still standing. However, this past week has been miserable. For some reason, Hart has been unable to sleep, so we have been up with him at all hours. Needless to say, he is exhausted at school and unable to really participate. Finally, after talking to Dr. Hammer about adjusting the medication, he slept through Thursday night and was more alert on Friday. Jeff has had some difficulties, too. He has been up with Hart, gotten into trouble several times at school and on the bus.
We are going to resume with Margie and are seeing Dr. Hammer this week.

May 18
Took Hart to the eye doctor. He has lazy eye and she wants to strengthen the weaker eye. So we must put drops in for six weeks and see how that goes. Dr. Hammer saw both boys and says they are looking much better, although we have a few years of adventure ahead.

We are changing Jeff’s medication–the Celexa was a bust. Spring must be in the air because Jeff has taken to running away again. He left gymnastics on Sunday. This morning I heard him singing outside as I was getting dressed. He had gotten his shoes and backpack on and was cheerfully waiting in the driveway for the school bus. I guess it’s an improvement over last year, when he routinely just took off when the spirit moved him.

I am impressed at Hart’s improvement in language. He understands and retells stories. He is capable of abstract thought and understanding more complex plots of stories and movies.

The new interest for both boys is death. We had a dead bird in our driveway and talked about that for a while. This evening Hart told Eva and me that he was a bad guy, then tipped himself over in his Cozy Coupe and did an elaborate death scene, ending with him lying still, splayed out, eyes closed. It was an award-winning performance. Jeff pretended to be a dead bird, then came back to life at the promise of cookies, and flapped his wings into the kitchen.

May 29
Labor Day Weekend. We are off to a bad start. It’s 2 am Friday night and neither boys can sleep. Howard and I have been up and down with one or the other all evening. Howard finally gave up and went to bed. A while later we could hear them laughing and screaming in the basement. We know from bitter experience that if one can’t sleep, the other won’t and neither will we.

It’s been a miserable two weeks. I went to both boys’ year-end reviews which were disappointing in the extreme. It look like we must step up the speech therapy and get private OT. I also want to consult a psychiatrist since it appears that the whole cocktail of medication isn’t working at all.

Jeff has had spring fever which means running away and all manner of disobedience at school. Hart was so unpleasant and unruly this evening in the restaurant, it was like unpleasant deja vu.

June 6
It is hot, hot, hot. We have been to the pool every weekend day since it opened over Memorial Day. The boys are much calmer there this year, although the guards frequently remind them not to run.

Hart looked at Howard’s wet legs yesterday and asked, “What’s that?” “Hair.” Howard told him he had hairy legs because he is a monster. When I walked over, Hart pointed at Howard’s legs and said, “I don’t like that.”

Hart has been interested in drawing lately, when he isn’t yelling at us or pouting. He was working on a face in the car. “Eyebrows, nose, boogers.”

Jeff’s passion for VW Beetles continues. I called customer service to ask if there was a poster of a Beetle and the woman promised to send one.

June 20
Long, long weekend. We started OT on Saturday and I like the therapist. The boys really enjoyed their session and were pretty verbal and cooperative. But the fun ended on Saturday morning.

Hart is still ornery and surly. If he is reprimanded or denied something, he goes into a tirade of “shut up, shut up, stupid, shut up, pig.” I had to drag him out of gymnastics in a swearing tirade (him, not me). Once he calmed down a bit, he was fine.

Not that Jeff is much easier. Howard says he is overly enthusiastic, but I think he is just loud. You can hear him from blocks away. He is now in the habit of saying the same thing over and over again at top decibels. It may just be some word he is fixated on like today, “BUTTONS!” or “CAT-ER-PILLAR!!!” or a question that he will keep repeating even if he has heard the answer. I have gotten into the habit after hearing it five or so times of saying, “I said yes, you must stop asking” or “I heard you.”

This afternoon on the playground Jeff said, “I the mean mommy. You be Jeff. Get out of my stuff.” Uncanny. Then I asked what the nice mommy says. Jeff told me, “good job.”
This evening Jeff found a packet of advertising postcards in the garbage. He showed Hart and me each one and described what was in the picture. There was one for fancy shower enclosure which Jeff explained is a “bug box.”

July 20
So much has happened lately. Up and down. Both boys have ear infections. Jeff is seeing both an otologist and an allergist. At least we aren’t giving them antibiotics anymore.

We have had some adventures with swearing and running away.

The summer is going quickly. This is the last week of summer school and summer day care. Next week, the boys will be at different day camps through the Park District.

Jeff is really blossoming. He is almost a savant with an I Spy book we have. I read off the things to find in the picture and Jeff points to the item immediately while I am still scanning. I have been playing classical music in the car, since the tape deck is not working. No Bach, it makes them hyper! Tonight a lively Strauss polka came on and Jeff exclaimed, “Fireworks!”

Hart has not been eating much lately. Too hot. However, Jeff is still chowing down. When Hart left the table, Jeff said, “He will be WEAK.”

July 28
The boys started camp on Monday. The adjustment seems to be going OK, but it’s a long day, no nap and they are very difficult when I pick them up and when they arrive home around 6 p.m. Yesterday I got an earful from Jeff’s aide about how both of them had a joyous reunion at the pool, got into trouble with the lifeguard several times and had to be removed. Also, Jeff’s ear is draining again, so I am sidelining them both from swimming.

I am so tired, tired, tired. I just dread having to pick them both up at the end of the day, in two different places. Arrrrgh.

A coworker whose daughter is a speech therapist gave me a tip about helping Hart say /f/. So today in the car, we practiced saying “Five Fat Fish.” He CAN say the sound at the end of the word easily if he thinks about it. He said, “Jeff,” “laugh,” “tough.” It is much harder for him at the beginning of the word. He has to concentrate very hard. I keep praising him and telling him how proud Rachel will be when she sees him in the fall when he can say those hard words.
Had to laugh. H&J were working together on the Lion King puzzle. And here are the “cantaloupe feet.” (antelope).

Both boys have a new fascination with bodies. Every night around bathtime, there is some variation of “Look at my BUTT!” Today, Hart squeezed my chest and asked, “You have balloons under there?” I told him no, it’s part of my body. I should have stopped there but then I said, “All ladies have them.” To which Hart replied, “You are not a lady, you’re a MOMMY.”

July 30
Busy day! I picked up Jeff from camp to take him to J’s birthday party. It’s beastly hot–close to 100 degrees even early in the day. En route to J’s party, I was coaching Jeff, “Now what do you say to J when you get to his house?” I asked. “Don’t bite me again!” Jeff instantly replied. J’s parents and M’s mom got a big laugh out of that. I guess that’s a bit of special ed humor.

Jeff did very well at the party. He loved the “penny scramble.” The kids had to find the pennies in a ring on the grass. Jeff was still at it, long after the other kids had lost interest. We put the pennies in his bank tonight and counted them–127!

August 6, 1999
Yesterday was the last day of camp and Hart’s and Jeff’s birthday. They brought cookies to camp and were very excited about being six. In the evening, Howard attended Jeff’s camp finale, where Jeff danced to YMCA and I went to Hart’s program. Hart’s department (5-6 year old boys and girls) did a country-western line dance which was adorable. I notice they put the best dancers in the middle of the line, so Hart and one other girl were front and center. Both boys have a very good sense of rhythm and movement.

Hart has mastered the monkey bars, too. He can swing all the way across. He must have worked on that at camp because he couldn’t do it a few weeks ago. Also, he was too short to reach the bars, so it is not my imagination that they are getting taller. Tomorrow is the backyard birthday party and the weather is supposed to be nice but possibly a little cool for running in the sprinkler.

Aug 15
We changed the boys’ meds and it seems to be a great success. They are still obnoxious when together but very charming when apart.

Yesterday Jeff made the longest utterance I have ever heard from him. I still get excited hearing a sentence over six words. When I told him he would have to wait for a nap until I put clean sheets on his bed, he said, “I’ll have to sleep in Mommy’s bed, because I am too tired to wait.”

Howard, Hart and Arnie went to the annual outing at Great America. Jeff and I went with Leslie, her husband and children to the zoo. Jeff really enjoyed the newly-renovated seal pool. He loved watching the seals swim by in the underwater observatory.

August 26, 1999
We have returned from our vacation. Five days in Oregon and more than 1000 miles on the rental car. It was a nightmare from beginning to end. Hart had a complete meltdown about every hour, it seemed. Jeff did plenty of goading him into mischief. We didn’t see much except from the windows of the car. Awful. I was never so glad to be home again.

During the trip, if Hart was thwarted in any way or told “no,” he would do what I call the chimpanzee scream, where he pulls back his lips and emits this high-pitched shriek which can shatter glass. This won lots of friends on the flight home. I think his nervous system just went kaput the first day. He wouldn’t even bother to say what was wrong, just drop to the floor and start the screaming. He would flail around and actually socked me in the face several times during the week. Now that we are home, it’s back to the old routine. This morning, when he tried the scream and flinging himself around, he went straight to his room until he was calm.

This morning I took the boys to see Dr. Hammer and told him a bit of our travails. He is trying a fourth SSRI for Jeff and we are increasing Hart’s Prozac for mood stabilization.

August 29
The nightmare continues. I don’t know what has gotten into them. Hart antagonized a homeowner at a garage sale by stepping through his plastic window well. I was holding his hand at the time, I just couldn’t jerk him up before he put his weight on it. Up till then, he had been fine.

Yesterday, for about an hour, Hart could say the /f/ sound. He said, “foot,” “feet,” “farm,” etc.
Today, it’s gone.

Sept 4
First week back to school. Hart has been in and out of trouble daily. He had a meltdown on the second day that alarmed both teachers and students. We are going to lower the Prozac and see if that helps. The dynamic at home seems to be Jeff thinking up the mischief and Hart executing it, getting into trouble and amusing Jeff no end. I have taken to punishing both, Hart for doing it and Jeff for telling him to do “bad things.” Today I was out of the room for three minutes, heard a thump in the basement and came down to find Hart sitting in the clothes dryer. That had all the hallmarks of a Jeff idea. Another minute and Jeff surely would have closed the door and possibly turned it on!

Margie agrees that the “timeouts” are not working. She would prefer we hold them in the basket hold. However, it is very hard with two, because the other one comes to the aid of his brother and attacks any adult.

I took Jeff with me to the dentist this week, because Hart was having a meltdown. When we got in the car, I asked him to stop bothering Hart while he is upset and in timeout. Jeff replied that he wanted to get Hart out of timeout. It was a pretty succint and clear answer. My usual response is YOU ARE NOT THE MOMMY. In this case, I said that when he the daddy, he can tell his own children when a timeout is over.

Sept 13
It’s 5760. What a strange few days. After twelve years, I am leaving the library. It had to happen sooner or later. Already I feel a weight has been lifted.

We are quite concerned about both boys. Jeff has been up to all kinds of sneaky mischief. He ran away again and when I captured him and sent him in the house for a timeout, he broke a window with his toy car. Lucky he wasn’t hurt.

Hart has been busy throwing tantrums of all manner. He also has developed the unpopular habit of poking people in the butt and I mean, in the butt. He got in trouble at gymnastics and as relunctant as I was, I suggested to the gymnastics head that I withdraw him. So he will take dance this session and Jeff will have gymnastics alone.

Sept 14
Cleaning out my office. What an undertaking. Still bewildered by the impossible behavior at home. Hart was reprimanded for telling me to “Shut Up.” Then Jeff asked if my feelings were hurt when Hart said that. I told Jeff they were and he suggested I go to “the hopsital,” to have my feelings mended.

Sept 16
Getting used to idea of not working. Weird. Spoke to Margie today and also had a message from Dr. K. I will arrange for him to meet Hart. I also want to ask Dr. H if it could be the Prozac that is making Hart so angry and irritable.

Read Jeff a new books that he liked, called Chipmunk. I kept trying not to laugh at Jeff calling it “Chick-munk.”

Interesting thing: Jeff was playing on the computer with a new CD-ROM game. At one point, you can click on seashells and they make different sounds. Jeff clicked on one and heard a voice speaking Russian. At the sound of that, he jerked his head up and looked at me quizzically. I wonder if he subconsciously recognized the sound of the language. It was very strange.

Sept 25
The countdown at the library. Two days left. Things are going well here as long as we don’t let the boys near each other. This requires extraordinary logistical planning.

Hart did well in dance class yesterday. His aide did not show up and it didn’t matter, he did the whole class without assistance. He is very proud of his black dance slippers and at the end, the little girls got to dance in filmy skirts and Hart got to wear a gold lamé vest.

Hart spent the morning at Grandma’s while I took Jeff to gymnastics. Without Hart, Jeff doesn’t really require an aide either. He has no problem participating with the class!

Hart hit paydirt at a rummage sale. Not much of interest to me, but for 25¢ he got to fill up a bag. He found four new furbies, two giant trolls and a stuffed puppy. Tonight Hart and I ate Chinese food, with the trolls as company. I promised to take him to the Wilmette Nature Center if there was time after dinner. As we were leaving, I asked, “Do you want to eat your fortune cookie now?” Hart says, “I am going to eat it at the park, duh!” He has got a way to go yet to talk like a sarcastic teenager…I thought.

Oct 3, 1999
So far I am enjoying retirement. Been hitting all the garage and rummage sales for cool stuff. Last night was the second night of Simchat Torah and I took Jeff to B’nai Emunah for the service. Before the marching began, he was a little restless and played with his toy Beetle in the aisle. When everyone sang the Sh’ma, a little voice piped up from the floor, “I know that song!”

Jeff marched around all seven times. The kids get to carry the silver crowns and breastplates from the Torahs, so Jeff did that, waved flags and stayed until the refreshments.

Oct 11
Columbus Day. We went to the Shedd Aquarium with Adam, Annie and Terri. It was fine and one hour was just enough, but on the way home, Annie had a meltdown and she and Hart started brawling in the backseat on Lake Shore Drive. When I tried to intervene, she sank her teeth into my arm and then my hand. She was remorseful later but Terri was mortified. I assured her I am used to physical abuse from six-year-olds.

The boys are talking a lot about Halloween. Hart is going to be Mickey Mouse and Jeff is going to be a monster. They have made decorations for the house, pictures of pumpkins and bats. Hart is enamored of drawing and he can now make recognizable images.

Also, all of a sudden, they are crazy about the Brio train set and play with it daily. They put together elaborate expanses of track and run the wooden trains.

They salvaged a large box from the R’s curb. I cut a door and two windows in it and they can play in their house for hours on end!

The Back Story II

I am finally discarding my oldest computer, which has the journal of our trip to Russia in 1996 and a number of documents pertaining to the adoption. So here, in a four-part series, is that journal from the boys' first four years with us.

May 15
Hart is still in a slump, behavior-wise. I got a call from his teacher, remarks from the J, a call from Grandma. I don’t know what to do with him. Margie says spend more individual time with him, so I took him alone for a stroll in Old Orchard. I realize that what wears me out is his contrariness. He has an oppositional idea for EVERYTHING. I realize this is some power struggle but it is tiresome. But there are some moments. While I was reading to him at bedtime, he kept talking…stream of consciousness stuff. “Please let me read,” I said. “NOOOOOOOOOOO, I wanna talk,” was his reply.

May 27
We spent the Memorial Day holiday on a short outing to Milwaukee. The boys enjoyed swimming in the hotel pool on Sunday. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really any shallow end so it required constant vigilance. Also, both of them kept going into the Jacuzzi which had a ledge for sitting, but they both kept stepping off the ledge into the deep end. I had to rescue them–so it wasn’t very relaxing for us. We took them to McDonald’s for dinner, one that has the indoor playground which was a big hit. The boys liked the hotel–we had a suite. Jeff ended up sleeping in the king-sized bed, Hart wanted to sleep in the closet and we slept on the couch-bed.

On Monday, we went to the Milwaukee zoo. The boys had pony rides and loved the little train. They weren’t very interested in the animals, except for the house cats in the children’s zoo. Hart liked the bears, too.

April 1997
May 28
Hart must have had a bad dream last night. Howard said he heard a thump and thought it was coming from downstairs. When he looked into the boys’ room, Hart was standing up wide awake and said, “I want to sleep in Mommy’s bed.” So Howard brought him into our room. I rolled over to look at the clock–it was 3 a.m.! I thought that was the end of a night’s sleep but he was quite content and went right to sleep between us.

June 2
We had an exciting weekend. I was at the ABA convention and brought home two posters: one of trucks and one of heavy machinery. They were a big hit. We found a bird’s nest intact that had fallen out of a tree and into our bushes. We also took the boys to a public works open house where they got to see bulldozers, ambulances, street cleaners and garbage trucks up close. Hart loved sitting in the driver’s seat and honking the horn.

It’s funny how kids put things together in their minds. Alla’s car is in the shop and the last couple times that she has come over, the boys ask, “Where’s Alla’s car?” and she tells them it is broken and is being fixed. Then on Saturday we saw a snippet of The Simpsons. The Simpson family drives to a Safari Park only to find their car surrounded by lions. When Alla came to babysit on Saturday evening, Hart asked about her car. Patiently, she told him again that it was at the mechanic being fixed. Hart nodded, “Tiger broke Alla’s car.”

June 5
I finally weighed and measured the boys. They are both 39 inches tall and if our scale is accurate, Hart weighs 33 lbs and Jeff weighs 35 lbs. That means they have grown almost six inches since they arrived (they were around 33 or 34 inches, they were squirmed too much to get an accurate measure) and have gained weight. They were 29 lbs when they came. No wonder all the pants are getting too short.

Both boys now have a genuine interest in books. I try to read at least two before bed to each one. Jeff is very partial to a book called My Five Senses. He calls it, “Charlotte book” because there is an African-American girl who looks like his classmate, Charlotte.

I brought a new book called Animal Tracks. You have to identify the animal by the tracks and on the next page is an illustration of the animal. Hart correctly identified all the animals, even ones I didn’t know he knew–bear, rabbit, deer, raccoon. However, when I asked him the name of the skunk, he said, “P.U.”

June 9
What an awful weekend. The boys were bad, bad, bad. Whenever I tell Jeff to stop doing something now, he says, “I have to!” I guess he and Hart had to take all their clothes off and run around the backyard naked ten minutes before guests were arriving, I guess he had to throw toys over the fence into the yard with Drake, the dog. I guess he had to smash the garbage can into our dinner table spilling wine and dishes everywhere. (That all took place in less than one half hour.)

However, we have had some interesting conversations lately. Hart was impatient when car in front of us was making a left turn and yelled, “Go, mister!”

Jeff is very proud of his underwear and announces all the time that he wears “big boy pants.” Yesterday he told me, “I wear big boy pants. Hart make poop in diaper.” When I said, “Oh no, Hart makes poop in toilet, too.” Jeff turned to Hart, “Oh, good job, Hart.”

June 18
We returned last night from four days in Virginia Beach. It was up and down. The first day or so was pretty difficult. However, the boys loved the beach and swimming with their water wings in the hotel pool. On Sunday, we drove all over to find the US Military Transport Museum, an outdoor museum with all kinds of jeeps, trucks, helicopters, boats and planes. It was little boy heaven. We made it to Portsmouth and took the water ferry, an old-fashioned paddle boat, across to Norfolk’s waterside where we ate lunch. The boat was a big hit but the boys were pretty tired by then. Our outing on Monday was to the Virginia Maritime Science Museum where the favorite thing was river habitat with lots of fish and turtles, and a petting area of baby sting rays. We got to see them being fed. We spent most afternoons at the beach. The boys didn’t care much for making their own sand structures, they preferred joining in and helping with existing sand castle work. Howard reported that Jeff got disinvited from a group of kids after hogging the dump truck. Minutes later, Hart wandered over to those kids and, some boys, thinking he was Jeff, read him the riot act and kicked him out of the group. The flight home was uneventful, thank goodness. Both boys were on very good behavior.

Hart kept insisting that we go to “a new house.” He was disappointed to return to our own house. They were sorry to leave our rental car, affectionately known as “Alla car” because it is a red subcompact, like hers.

Today is the first day of summer school. The bus came at the regular time and Dawn was there, just like always, so maybe they won’t feel the transition so acutely.

June 20
I took the boys to the dentist yesterday. Hart was eager to sit in the chair and was very cooperative when the dentist cleaned his teeth. Jeff didn’t like the experience one bit. He kicked and screamed and would not open his mouth. He especially hated the flossing. However, when the dentist applied the chocolate-flavored vitamins, he declared, “I like it.” When it was all over, Jeff jumped out of the chair and announced, “I sad, I cry-waaaaahh.”

June 23
I am still in shock over the boys’ magical day on Sunday. Jeff woke up complaining that his foot hurt, so I decided to forego the trip to the pool until he felt better. At 10 a.m. when Joan came over with baby Caroline, the boys were lounging on the couch watching a video. At 10:30 a.m. they were fast asleep. Weird. They woke up at noon, I gave them lunch and we went outside to play. It was so hot that I put them in bathing suits and they ran through the sprinkler happily for an hour. Then they wanted to go to Matthew’s, so we drove the toy cars over and they played in the R’s sprinkler and wading pool until Howard came at 3 p.m. Then without a fuss, they came home. I suggested (to Howard) a short nap and they boys complied by lying down on the couch and going to sleep. We woke them up around 5 p.m. for dinner. We ate outside at a Thai restaurant and the boys were noisy, very chatty but not misbehaving. Stopped at the grandparents' to drop off a car seat and eat some cookies with Sharon, spent a half hour at the park, came home, had a bath and went easily to bed. Aliens have abducted my children and replaced them with these angelic ones…how long will it take until they come to get them back?

July 2
I returned from ALA conference to find the house an utter mess and the boys much more chatty than when I left. Hart resumed speech therapy today. I like the new graduate clinician–she has a very calming manner. Hart was very chatty and cooperative, a big change from just three weeks ago when we left off. He asked and answered questions, he identified animals correctly and he stuck with the tasks much longer than he had before. He identified “rabbit,” and when Dana asked, “Where do we find a rabbit?,” Hart said, “On the grass.” When he saw a picture of a tiger, he said “tiger” and answered that you could find one “at the zoo.” On the ride over, he told me, “Hart likes cats.” I asked what other animals he liked and he said, “tiger.” He told me he wants to “ride a tiger.” At therapy he held a long plastic container like a baton and announced that he was marching, then he did a clean-and-jerk and announced that he was exercising. I didn’t know he knew any of those words as verbs.

We went to the water park in the evening. It was a little cool out. The boys were fine but leaving is always a huge, ugly production.

July 5
We had a very busy day yesterday. Howard insisted on taking the boys to the beach very early–it was pretty chilly, a record low temperature for this time of the year. Then our neighborhood parade at 10 a.m. with the boys in the wagon. After that I went to take part in the neighborhood parade and met up with everybody at 2:30 at the Evanston parade. Hart had had enough and wanted to come home so I took him back with me. Jeff and Howard stayed. Then we went to celebrate Grandma Etta’s birthday. Then off to the fireworks. The boys had pretty much had it even before the fireworks started and were whiny and fractious, but the enjoyed the fireworks display, even though they couldn’t actually sit down for a minute and watch it. After the grand finale, Jeff said, “Do it again.” Well, we will have to wait for next year.

July 7
Yesterday while giving I was the boys a bath, Jeff noticed that the bottom on the toy duck had soap scum on it. “Dirty,” he pointed out. I explained that it was from the soap and I would try to clean it off. “It’s the duck’s poop,” Jeff told me.

July 9
It was a less than great day. This is the boys’ first Wednesday at the JCC due to Alla’s absence, but also Hart’s first Wednesday speech therapy appointment. Last week he was so terrific, I could barely believe it was the same kid. Alas, that was short-lived. He was extremely uncooperative and bossy, and his therapist really didn’t get to do anything with him other than try to coax him to cooperate. It didn’t work. Jeff has a new word though–“guys.” “Two guys sit together,” he told me as he and Hart sat side by side on the picnic table. I also heard him say something about “you guys.” The day after tomorrow is my first Friday home with them. I think the weather will be warmer and we can swim.

July 15
I haven’t written for a while since things have gone from bad to worse. The last three days have been terrible. On Monday, I went to pick the boys up at the J and Jeff was in disgrace. He had been doing some mischief on the slide and a teacher was giving him what-for. Then he tried twice more to go on the slide after being told not to. When I grabbed him to get down he threw himself headfirst into the sandbox (after being covered with sweat).

Since it’s over 90˚ out, I said the boys could play outside in the sprinkler after I changed my clothes and brought the swimsuits down. In those two minutes, they left the backyard and when I ran back around the house, Hart was waving the hose which he had turned on himself, so I dragged them both into the house for not following directions. Then Hart burned his finger badly on the stove by touching a burner.

Today, Wednesday, when I came to pick Hart up for speech therapy, he threw a major tantrum. Apparently, they had been decorating cupcakes and he would not leave his behind. (If I had realized that he had already finished his cupcake, I would have taken it with us, but I thought he just didn’t want to leave the project without completing his cupcake.) I could not get him down the hall without dragging/carrying him. When we got to the car, he would not get in. At this point, we were already quite late and he was carrying on so much I realized there was no way he would possibly cooperate for the therapist, so I brought him back into the J to call and cancel. I was just too frayed around the edges myself. As I was trying to get them out of the J the second time, Jeff started methodically pouring water by the cupful into the garbage can.

I took them to the water park directly from the J, thinking to wear them out there. Jeff evidently has a new ear infection. We have the same fight because they can’t keep their paws off the red cones that are set up there. (Why can’t they just fix the problem????) Hart, without provocation pushed a toddler down, then took Aaron's toy watering can and hurled it over the fence.

July 19
Another frightening episode–I had the boys at gymnastics today and overall, everything went OK, thanks to the two aides. However, when the class ends, they say good-bye and leave, so I am left trying to get shoes on and herd the boys out. As I was putting shoes on Hart, I saw Jeff round the corner and called to him to come back. He didn’t answer (surprise?) When I got up to get him back, he was gone. No sign of him in the hall, near the gym or anywhere. I was just beside myself. I couldn’t go look for him and leave Hart, I couldn’t exactly look with Hart in tow. When I reported to the front desk that I had lost a kid, there was no one to help me. I ended up standing around helplessly, hoping someone would find him or that he would make his way back to the gym area. After about eight long minutes, an older woman jogger appeared with Jeff in her arms. You could tell she thought I must be a total incompetent as she asked if I knew where he had been. I said I didn’t know, that I had alerted everyone that he was missing and was quite concerned. He had been climbing over the second floor railing that overlooks the gym. I don’t know how he even got upstairs. Spank spank and I hope to God that never happens again.

July 25
Today is the last day of summer school for the boys. These three-day weekends are hard on me. However, we have started splitting the boys up between us. This week I took Hart to Old Orchard on Wednesday evening and last night took Jeff to story hour at the library. He can’t really sit and listen to the stories but he likes dancing to “Shake Shake Your Sillies Out” and any flannel board story.

July 27
Jeff likes me to sing a song about each of the stuffed animals. We have a frog (Down by the banks of the Hanky-Panky where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky…), an elephant (one little elephant went out play), baby beaver (I sing something to the tune of O Dreidl Dreidl Dreidl). Last night Jeff requested a song for doggie Charlotte, specifically “How much is that doggie in the window.” As I started to sing, Jeff said, “wait wait.” He had to put Charlotte on the windowsill first.

Also at dinner, Jeff peeled an orange (a clementine actually) himself and announced, “Look, look, a basketball.”

August 3
A few days ago, Jeff was whimpering and whining in the car. I couldn’t see him since he was sitting behind me and couldn’t tell what was going on. I kept asking, “what’s wrong?” “what’s happening?” but he didn’t respond. Finally, I said to Hart, “Why is Jeff crying?” Reply–“has to!” I still don’t know what that was about.

Both boys had very good speech therapy sessions this week. We moved Hart’s second appointment to Tuesday morning, instead of Wednesday afternoon and that’s working out better. The neurologist also recommendis a second dose of medication, so we are just starting that.

I saw Marthe this week and asked how Alla is doing. Marthe assured me that Alla is coming back!

Aug 10
Well, believe it or not, the boys turned four. The birthday was uneventful–H&J brought treats to the JCC and we went to Grandpa and Grandma after dinner. The got some new little cars from Granny. Barry and I set up the twin-sized beds, so the boys are no longer in the crib mattresses on the floor. Grandma got them fancy sheets for the new beds.

Friday was a hectic day. We went to the neurologist in the morning. He spent over an hour with us and the boys were in rare form. They were leaping all over the examining room, from table to chair, through the air. It made me think of the gibbons at Lincoln Park Zoo. The senior partner came in and asked if it was American Bandstand. Dr. Hammer is upping Jeff’s morning dose of Adderall and prescribed Zoloft for Hart. He hopes that will help some of the compulsive/impulsive behavior. We’ll do a month’s trial. The boys are 38.5 inches each. Jeff weighs 36 lbs and Hart weighs 33.5.

Then in the afternoon, we went to speech therapy. Both boys had excellent sessions, to my astonishment. (Of course, this is the last session of the quarter!) Then off to the pediatrician for their 4-year checkup. For some reason, it is always an ordeal there. I don’t know why the office can’t make a simple accommodation for two very hyperactive children–I am considering changing doctors.

Yesterday, Saturday, we went to gymnastics where the boys were pretty obnoxious. Then they saw me off to the Metra Street station to catch a train for downtown to see “Chicago.” Walking to the train, Hart said, quite clearly, “Mommy, I will wave to you on the train.” It was very sweet.

August 11
I am home sick from work, nursing yet another upper respiratory infection. We had a great party last night for Noah. The whole clan was here, Darren, Stefanie, Lorel, Rick and his girlfriend, Scott and family, Roberta and several other Noah friends. The boys were just terrific.

They were happy to play with the other kids although they were at first a bit wary on the onslaught on all their backyard toys. I was even expecting a crash as the medication wore off, but they were fine. Of course, they were exhausted and slept in till 8 a.m. this morning, so we had to rush out the door to the JCC.

Funny mystery. One of the kids was obviously in our room, since they were playing with a toy that was hidden in Howard’s closet. However, when we went to bed, we noticed that the contents of Hart’s urine sample (which was on the nightstand) was gone. The top was off and the cup was empty. We were prepared for the worse…but couldn’t smell a thing. I suspect some small person drank it.

August 13
I am trying to use more 1-2-3 Magic discipline techniques, since the boys now understand “time-out.” The afternoon dose of Adderall is much better and except for a crash around 6:30 or 7 p.m., they are much more pleasant. Hart is still a bit temperamental but not as agitated and tantrum-y as before. I guess Jeff threw the beloved toy kitty into the toilet at the J today…he seems quite proud of that.

We have one more week in Shari’s classroom, before graduating to the “Matzah Ball” class. Can’t believe it. But, first our trip to Cincinnati and then Wisconsin.

August 21
It was the last day in Shari’s room, so the boys must have had an exciting day. The beloved kittycat is apparently going with them to the new classroom. Thank goodness. That transition would be too hard.

We leave tomorrow for our first car trip–to Cousin Scott's bar mitzvah in Cincinnati. I am expecting the worst.

I interviewed a new sitter today who seems terrific. The boys were very well-behaved and extremely chatty. At bathtime, they turned into hellions and would not go to sleep at all. We finally separated them at 9:45 p.m. The J teachers forgot to give them afternoon medication so I don’t know if it’s that, the excitement of the day, the anticipation of the trip or what. Still it was difficult getting packed, having to run upstairs every five minutes to quiet them. When they were separated, they started screaming from room to room. Finally I said the next screamer gets a spank and did it.

August 24
We are back from Scott's bar mitzvah in Cincy. The trip down was much better than expected, although it took a very long time with all the stops. However, thank goodness we declined the Friday dinner, since the boys were completely out of control after the long car trip. They were fine at the bar mitzvah–the baby sitters worked out great. They even played nicely at the luncheon. However, it is still impossible to carry on an adult conversation–you can’t take your eyes off them or let concentration wander. We were seated with cousins Steve and Sharon and Allison and Josh and another woman with a 3-year-old son. We timed the medication so that the boys could attend the evening party easily. It was terrific. Aunt Ronnie got them birthday gifts, a combination vehicle, trailer and boat. One is a shark hunter complete with shark, cage and diver and the other is an alligator catcher similarly outfitted. They were big hits and the boys played nicely all evening. We were able to stay until past nine. Jeff had a great time on the dance floor with his car. Whenever I approached, he said, “Go away Mommy, I dance with car.”

The big discussion in our family is the plans for Ted’s wedding. This morning was a brunch at the Kessel’s and the boys liked their huge trampoline. Still no real chance to talk to adults since there was major mischief. Jeff could not keep his hands off the flowers. Hart would not stop whining for the helium balloons. I stepped away to the bathroom for a minute and Howard told me that Hart had released all the helium balloon centerpieces from every single table. The trip home was long and uneventful. The boys played pretty much the whole time with the new toys.

Aug 25
On of PBS’ best offering is a show called “The Big Comfy Couch” which Hart calls The Couchy Couch or “Couchy” for short.

August 29
We are back from four days in the Wisconsin Dells. It is a good vacation spot for children. We stayed at Treasure Island which included admission to a giant water park which was a big hit. The boys liked the water slides and went with Howard down the monster slides. The small roller coaster and kiddie boat rides were popular. There were several nice pools at the hotel and we tried them all out. We rode with ducks and took the river boat tour, which was too pastoral for the boys. They got restless and loud. Hart has been very crabby and, though I have been putting off getting Zoloft for him, I think I must do it. He whines and hurls himself around at the slightest provocation. It is sad to see him so regularly unhappy. The neurologist hopes that Zoloft will help with the tantrums, the perseverative behavior and the endless defiance.

The train trip up was nice and the boys were behaved. The return trip was awful, even though they slept for an hour. My ears are ringing from the screaming, squealing and bellowing. I thought of leaving them on the train…

August 31, 1997
Yesterday has a whole surreal dreamlike quality about it. We had a tough day with the boys and I am still quite concerned about Hart. I was working on the computer after the boys were in bed and around 9:30 p.m. Howard came to tell me that there had been a car crash in Paris announced on the news. Princess Diana had been injured. Her new companion, who has been much in the news recently, Dodi al Fayyed, was killed and Diana taken to a hospital. We watched the CNN coverage until 10 p.m. when it seemed that the reporters were getting desperate for angles. Anguished American tourists who saw the accident were interviewed. We watched the film “Secrets and Lies” until 11 p.m. and then checked back on the news. Diana was dead! It just seemed so unbelievable, like some horrible dream. She is so beloved. Now she will probably join the ranks of tragic heroines, Evita Peron, Marilyn Monroe, to be forever young and forever beautiful. I somehow felt I knew her, but I guess she is so much in the news that everyone in the world must feel that way.

September 4
The clouds seem to have lifted. Hart has had trouble sleeping, I think due to the new medication. One night I just brought him in our bed, he was making so much noise and it was well after 11 p.m. After dozing off, I heard a little voice in my ear saying, “Get me a cookie, Mommy, I want a cookie.”

Everything seems to be going fine at the JCC. I have to reconcile myself that it’s not going to be like Shari’s room She knew their history and they were really beloved since she saw their progress. Now they are just ordinary kids in the classroom.

School started and I was quite disconcerted by the fact that the bus is almost a half hour later than we are used to. But everything has gone smoothly. Ms. P was very impressed at their speech and I talked to the speech therapist and she also said Hart’s “affect” is much improved. I guess that refers to expression and nonverbal communication. They were just delightful this evening and happy to see Daddy home earlier than usual.

September 7
Hart’s trouble sleeping has taken some terrible turns. He trashed Howard’s closet two nights ago in the space of about 20 minutes. We still can’t figure out how he got all the clothes off the hangers. When I went up to check on him, there was a heap of clothes and he was working on getting the shelves out.

Last night we were guests at Darren's and Lorel’s and it will probably be the last invitation we get from them. Jeff redeemed himself by chowing like a field hand on the pesto pasta (three helpings), marinated chicken and rice, then settling down for some ice cream and cookies. On the way home, Hart threw up in the car, which I am convinced he did by sticking his hand down his throat. He thought it was hysterical. Even after that excitement and the late night, Hart did not fall asleep to close to midnight, after a bout of clean diaper shredding in the bathroom at about 10 p.m.

We took the boys out separately for dinner. Hart and Howard ate at Slice of Life and Jeff and I went to Boston Market. Jeff really enjoyed his kid's meal and was chatting away through the meal. There were mostly older couples eating in and the couple seated behind me stopped to chat as they left. “I can’t understand how you tolerate it,” she said. “Does he ever stop talking?” Needless to say, I was surprised…and pleased. I answered that both he and his brother were late talkers and I was delighted that they were finally talking. Jeff still wasn’t coming up for air and she kept jokingly trying to shush him. If she only knew!

Sept 13
Our ill-fated experiment with Hart and Zoloft is over. He had three terrible days, even though he was only getting a dose every 48 hours. I am relieved that he can sleep again and so can I. However, he has been crabby and obstinate being off the medication for two days. So I am just stymied. Today is Aaron's second birthday and there is an informal gathering at their house this afternoon.

Hart and Howard went to therapy with Margie this morning. Jeff and I went to a couple garage sales but came home empty-handed. I feel like I have clothes for them for the next five years.

Sept 15
We had an interesting Sunday. As usual, Howard took one and I took the other. I invited Sarai and Ivy to meet us at the McDonald’s on Peterson that has an indoor playground. When I cautioned Hart that he must leave when I say it’s time to go, he told me, “I say no, play more.” To my surprise, Hart was great. He came over to report that a lady had told him to put his socks on. I usually take the socks off since he throws them around. However, he agreed to keep his socks on. He played very nicely with Ivy. When he took a french fry break, two older kids came over to the table to ask if he could come play with them again. When it was time to go, there was a momentary fit but he dutifully followed Ivy out when she told him to come. He put his shoes back on without complaint and I lavished him with praise and gave both Ivy and Hart gummy sharks. Sarai says that it’s good for Ivy to get to be the “big kid.” It’s much easier to interact with the boys successfully when there’s only one at a time. It was really a nice evening–a visit to the land of the normal.

Sept 25, 1997
Yesterday I brought home a new “Comfy Couch” tape for the boys. While I was cuing it up, Hart came over and said, “Mommy, I kiss you, thank you a-brought me.” It was very sweet and the first time he has initiated affection.

Sept 30,1997
It was an exciting weekend. Our neighborhood had its first block party and everyone behaved satisfactorily. The Village sent a fire truck and squad car for the kids to see. Jeff had a great time, sitting in the driver’s seat of the police car talking into the mike. First, he says “HI!” a few times, then I said, “Say ‘pull over.’” So then, this little voice yells “Pull ozer, pull ozer.”

Because of our success on Saturday giving the medicine later in the day so they could manage the party, I tried it again on Sunday. At 1 a.m., they were both up, romping around and could not be calmed. At 1:40, Howard put Jeff in our bed and slept in Jeff’s. Last night, the boys were wide awake at midnight when I got home and were still making noise at 2 a.m. when I finally fell asleep, after trying a half dozen sleeping arrangments. Surprisingly enough, they did not suffer at all today after only five hours of sleep but Howard and I did.

Hart is a big fan of The Big Comfy Couch. The Library just bought the whole series of tapes, so we have enough different “Couchy Couch” tapes so that I don’t lose my mind. Jeff, and Hart, too, like the Wallace and Gromit series. That’s great because adults can enjoy them too. I tried Disney’s Aladdin to see if they could manage a feature-length film. They liked it but we had to watch it in segments.

I find that I can engage them in one bedtime book. Jeff is keen on anything about vehicles. Also, he likes to request “songs” and then suggest lyrics for them. Today he wanted a blankie song, a truck song about doors open and kids riding, an animal song and a car song. I find that the tune of “Lollipop” works pretty well in numerous situations.

Hart made an interesting comment today. He was sitting behind me in the car, saying “Look, look, look” presumably at something he was doing. I kept saying, “I can’t look now.” Hart replies, “Mommy, turn your head around.”

At long last, we think Hart is toilet-trained. Yesterday, at the J he used the bathroom several times, so they put him in underwear. He came home immensely pleased with himself. Howard and I were kvelling all over him. I left for the evening and he promptly pooped…in the pants. Today Howard put him back in a diaper since he has a bit of diarrhea but I packed up all the training pants in his backpack to take to the J. He managed the whole afternoon without an accident.

October 4
The Big Comfy Couch is still very popular here. I bring a few tapes home from work weekly to watch. The boys’ favorite character is Snicklefritz, the cat, whose name suffers all kinds of creative variations in our household, Nickasritz, Sickletriss etc, or according to Hart, just Nicky.

Howard and I are car shopping which is hellish. We spent the day running to dealerships, then in the evening, all four of us went to Buffalo Grove to look at two dealerships there. The boys were pretty cooperative. Jeff sang most of the way in the car. He loves to sing to familiar tapes even if he can’t exactly get the words.

Also the boys are very interested in coloring. They spent a while this afternoon drawing and this evening Hart asked again to color for a while. Their attention span is much increased and they can concentrate. Both of them can handle a crayon or pencil appropriately. I notice Hart trying to “color in” things even it looks like contained scribbles.

Oct 4
After gymnastics today I took the boys to meet Loonette from The Big Comfy Couch who was appearing at a store in Wilmette. We arrived about 45 minutes before the appearance. I told the boys we would have a long wait in line. Actually they were pretty good despite the long wait. We made friends with a group of girls behind us, who had all the character toys. The boys were pretty excited about the stuffed Snicklefritz. Then finally the line moved and we got five seconds to sit on the couch (regular-sized) and greet Loonette. I snapped a photo and they ushered us off. I asked the boys if they were going to say anything, like “who made this big mess?!” from the show. Both boys enthusiastically did their best Loonette imitation, “who made big mess?” and then we lost Jeff in the store.

October 13
Things have been going pretty well. I brought a new tape about baby animals home from the library and that’s a welcome relief from watching Comfy Couch every single day, although we do that, too. Today is Columbus Day so the boys were at the J all day. I understand they got pretty wild in the afternoon and were pretty loud and raucous when I got them home. Howard is out of town. Margie called and was delighted to hear that I am feeling better and things are going more smoothly.

Last night Jeff and I had dinner with Brigid and her husband and daughter. He liked the Persian food at Reza’s and was fairly well-behaved. However, I must remember that it is impossible to take him into any stores–he can’t keep his hands off anything.

October 17
Last night a miracle happened–Hobbes let Jeff pet her. She came over to me and Jeff saw his chance and before she knew it, he was gently stroking her tail. Then she realized what was going on and took off.

This morning I woke up to some unfamiliar thumping. The boys had opened the front door, dragged Hobbes’ scratching post over to it. Jeff was holding the post while Hart was precariously balanced on it, carefully dismantling all the Halloween decorations. I told Howard about this and he laughed, then said, “Why?” My guess because they “had to.”

Howard took the boys to NU’s homecoming parade. Alla forgot to give them their afternoon dose of medicine, so they are really in no condition to go, but Howard has his heart set on it.

October 23
I have been driving the new Toyota RAV4 and the boys really like the new car. When I finally got some tapes to play, they started yelling, “No, want mommy do!” I was puzzled, “Mommy do what?” “Mommy do, want mommy do.” Finally Jeff said, “ Want Mommy do tape.” Then I realized it was the tape with the song “What Does Your Mama Do?” So the next day I brought it from the Library. The boys sang and sang along with the tape. There is a verse that goes, “ She drives a great big truck.” When we got out of the car, Jeff said, “ Mommy, you drive a little truck!” True enough.

After his bath, Hart wanted me to use the blow dryer. I explained that he hair was dry since we hadn’t washed it. “But my body is wet!!!!”

Last night we went for Simchat Torah and the boys had a nice time. Jeff wanted to parade around and touch the torahs but Hart just wanted to sit. They liked the flags.

October 26
Daylight Savings time and the weather is cold, rainy and windy. This morning it was a pleasure to hear Hart engage, at long last, in some symbolic play. He had the two stuffed beavers and says, “Baby Beaver wants a snack (he makes him eat off a pie tin). Mommy, give him a snack. Wipe with napkin. (he uses a sock to wipe them off). Wipe ears, tail, body. Go to Granny’s. Go to park. Go see Snicklefritz.”

We still watch “The Big Comfy Couch” often but Jeff loves a Tonka tape with anthropomorphic trucks and bulldozers. Also both are having a newfound interest in Thomas the Tank Engine. A big treat is to visit the Great Train Store at Old Orchard Mall which has two Brio train tables at kid height to play with. We were there last night.

Nov 1, 1997
We had an exciting week. Granny was here for a visit and she had a great time with the boys. She and Hart spent the afternoon together on Wednesday while Jeff was with Alla. They played with blocks and went the park. The boys were very chatty and on good behaviour most of the time. We ate at Old Orchard Food court and showed Granny the dragon there.

Yesterday was Friday, so Granny left in the morning after Alla arrived. There was a Halloween party at school and in the evening we took the boys trick or treating. They were cats. I made costumes out of a hooded sweatshirt with felt ears, matching sweat pants and tail made out of pantyhose. They were very cute. I went to a few houses with them, then Howard took them out to more houses. What a loot!

The boys are talking much more now and respond when spoken to. I spoke to Margie about the lack of success with Hart in toilet-training. Also both boys are congested and Hart’s voice sounds so froggy. The allergist says it is the mold count.

It was quite cold for a couple days and then balmy. This is the first Halloween in ten years that there hasn’t been rain or snow. It was in the upper 50s.

When I went to wake up Hart on Wednesday morning, he pulled the blanket over his head and announced, “I not here.”

Nov 3
What a crazy day! The school bus was a half hour late. The boys nearly went nuts waiting for 40 minutes, I was late to work. In the afternoon, Howard got a call from the J that the boys were completely hyper when they arrived. I spoke to Dr. H, then Ms. P. It seems we have had a succession of bus drivers and any upset in the regular routine makes the boys bonkers. They have had several difficult days, although last week, with Granny here, was fine. Go figure.

Jeff answered, “I’m four,” today when asked how old he was. The /f/ was perfectly clear. The boys’ speech has progressed so much lately, but their articulation is still not very good. If you can decode the consonant substitutions, /s/ for /f/, /zh/ for /v/, /m/ and /n/ are interchangeable, and overlook the lost syllables, they are completely understandable. We are used to drinking “nelk” and listening to “noo-sic,” but we eat “dimmer.” “Bulldozer” is “bo-der” and “beaver” is “bea-zure.” Jeff likes to eat berries but it comes out “beers.” We eat “trench tries” at “stressrants.”

Both boys like watching Thomas the Tank Engine. I found a Thomas bedspread at a rummage sale on Sunday and it was a big hit.

Nov 6, 1997
We are going to try some reward system for getting Hart smoothly on the bus. Today there was dawdling, the bus pulled up…Jeff made a dash into the yard, Hart didn’t budge, then took off in the opposite direction. I had to push him, Sisyphus-style, up into bus, while he was trying to throw himself onto the ground.

Nov 8
I got the boys off on the bus on Friday without mishap, using a techique I got from a tape on ADHD. It says to explain the rules before any transition, specifically when you are going out in public. So I just said, “Pick the leaves you want, and then stand and wait for the bus.” Well, it worked.

When I went to leave the house last night, I said goodnight and Jeff spread his arms for a hug. That’s a first.

I read him a book that has a little boy taking care of a dog. “Do we have a dog?” I asked. “Yes.” Surprised, I said, “we do?” Jeff nodded and pointed out his window, “Drake.” I don’t have the heart to tell him that Drake belongs to the neighbors next door.

I took Jeff this morning to Tot Shabbat at JRC. Although he is older than most of the other kids who look to anywhere from 10 months to three, it is just our speed. Jeff got to open the mini-ark and pass around the toy Torah. He knew some of the songs and people complimented me on how well-behaved he was. There was a little kiddush afterward and I met another family with a little boy from Russia. Jeff was having a nice time playing with the dollhouse with some of the other kids, so I was actually able to converse with the adults.

November 11
Yesterday while Jeff was waiting for the school bus, he told me, “I need slippers, my hands are cold.” Today he asked if I was going to wear my “ear muffins.”

We had a scare on the way home from the JCC today. The librarian had given them rubber bands and we were halfway home when I heard Hart snapping his rubber band. Then he said, “The rubber band is hurting my neck.” For a moment, I thought he had accidentally snapped himself. A split second later, I realized that he had probably put the rubber band over his head and around his neck (God knows how!) I pulled over and jumped out of the car, just as he was beginning to gasp for air. That’s it for rubber bands–styrofoam cups have already been banned for the mess they make.

November 12
I have a tape of 50s and 60s hits for kids. When “Soul Man” came on, Hart looked up and started laughing and singing along. “Ro-man, I’m a Ro-man.” Roman is in his class at the JCC.

November 15
The night before last, Howard found Jeff at 4 a.m. sleeping in the hall at the top of the stairs. When Howard asked the next day why Jeff had gotten out of bed, he said, “The penguin was chasing me.”

November 25
We had our conference with Ms. P today. She says the boys’ language is coming along in leaps and bounds, but there are still behavioral issues. (As if we didn’t know!)

Hart’s toilet-training continues to mystify us. He still never initiates and will not go unless taken by an adult. Last night while romping around with Shira, he announced, “P.U., I smell something stinky!” No kidding.

Neither boy likes having his hair combed. Hart just runs away but Jeff will let me do his hair if he gets a chance to comb mine. We sit in front of a mirror and with the air of an artiste, he fluffs and puffs and styles my hair, occasionally commanding me to “Shake.” Of course, my hair falls right back into place despite his efforts to make it stand up.

Nov 28
Day after Thanksgiving. We were a small group, Grandma, Grandpa and Grandma Etta and us. Jeff took a short nap and enjoyed setting the table. He put all the plates, napkins and silverware out under my direction. Hart took a three-hour nap. The dinner turned out well and the boys were entertaining. We ended up watching Aladdin afterwards. Grandma Etta is quite frail and has difficulty walking.

Today Alla is here and I have a day off from work. We have tickets to the afternoon performance of Ringling Brothers circus. Alla is coming along so we are three adults and the boys.

Dec 7
The circus was a big success. The boys were tranfixed. We were lucky to have a box--nowhere to escape to and our own bathroom.

We had a hairy week with the school bus. Finally in exasperation, we wrote a letter of complaint. It has been a real hassle and very stressful on the boys.

Seems like over Thanksgiving their vocabulary doubled.

Uncle Ted and his dog Max dropped by yesterday and the boys were very excited to see Max.
We have been watching Mr. Rogers visits the circus, a new Kidsong video called County Sing-Along. The boys do sing along, which is hilarious. They also listen to a tape of 50s and 60s hits in the car and sing along.

On Friday Alla babysat all day so we could go to the theater in the evening. I guess it was manageable although she said the boys asked about me. At 2:30 p.m. they got up and would not go back to sleep, so I put Jeff in our bed and ended up sleeping in his. Hart keeps asking, “Member, member, you sleep in Jeff’s bed?” It was comfortable enough but small.

Dec 13
We attended the office holiday party last night. It was fun and the boys were well-behaved. We met Santa and the boys said, Ho Ho Ho, with encouragement from Santa. When Santa asked what they wanted for Christmas, they said teddy bears, which is exactly what Santa had for them. Jeff was fascinated watching the drummer in the band. Hart danced a little with Hannah and Grace but said he wanted to dance with Nathan. En route to the party, we saw a sports car with retractable headlights. Hart said, “Look, the car’s eyes are open.”

Hart and Howard went to Theraplay with Margie and got a Beanie Baby raccoon from her. I took Jeff to Tot Shabbat at JRC. He much preferred to play with some toy cars he found. He is one of the oldest there but is not much interested in participating, which even the 2-year-olds seem to manage. He returned the Torah to the ark, after much encouragement. There is one other Russian adoptive mother there and we commented how similar the two boys look. Both have very Slavic cheeckbones, we think.

After a brief nap, we took the boys to Nathan’s 4th birthday party, which was fine, although Hart was disappointed not to get a balloon. Howard vetoed that since helium balloons turn into a minor obsession for days afterward. He cried but recuperated once we got home. The goodie bag was a new box of fancy crayons which was a big hit. After the party, Jeff and I played and Hart conked out the couch for another hour. He still really needs that nap in the afternoon. I am loathe to tamper with our schedule but it was a special occasion.

Dec 20
Both boys are sick with ear infections again. Yuck. School is out for winter break so next week will be at the J full days.

I had Hart with Margie this morning. She thinks he has really turned a corner and is doing much better. That’s great news. We played “Three Little Pigs.” Hart was the wolf and I was all three pigs. He loves saying “chinny, chin, chin,” and “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down.” When he came to the last pig in the brick house (four pillows), of course, he could not blow the house down. So Hart the wolf announced, “I take it apart!”

I guess I hadn’t written about this before, but having told the story at work of Hart saying, “Go in the chicken (kitchen),” this phrase has joined the popular parlace at the library.

Dec 27
The boys have enjoyed Hanukah and have really been raking in the gifts. They got electric keyboards from Granny, two new videos, The Lion King and Fantasia, backpacks from Alla, cars, a soccer ball and jungle animals from Uncle Ted and Aunt Allison. And we are only at the 4th night! On Christmas, Ted and I took the boys to the zoo. It was great. Completely empty so we had the animals to ourselves. The boys enjoyed chasing pigeons, watching the polar bears swim and seeing doggie Max. We got Burger King hamburgers for lunch and ate at Ted’s. This is unusual warm winter weather so we will probably never be able to do it again, but it was fun. Christmas evening the Rs came over with their two children and the kids ran around while we ate latkes.

Dec 29
What a bizarre day! The boys have been great for weeks–no tantrums, no belligerence. Then today a total breakdown. Hart had a crab attack on arrving at the J this morning, but it didn’t seem terribly out of the ordinary. When I came to pick them up, there were no less than eight sets of clothes that they had peed through. Hart hasn’t had more than one or two accidents for the past few days. Then I couldn’t get them out of the J. There was a lot of lying on the floor and screaming–again a throwback to several months ago. When we got home, things got even worse. The Hanukah gift tonight was from my boss. It was one of those bouncy balls with handles, but of course, deflated and in the box. Hart had a crying fit that lasted until bedtime. I tried to use the bike pump but could not get it inflated. So I hid it in the car, lest it set Hart off again, but it didn’t matter, he resumed the crying jag when he saw me. I tried to do joint compression and brushing at bedtime but it was no use. He kept whining until Howard took him up to bed.

Jan 1, 1998
New Year’s Day. It’s sort of like a regular day. The stores are open, so Hart and I went to run errands at Old Orchard. We stopped in Learningsmith to play with the Brio train setup and watch part of Wallace and Gromit. Jeff and Howard went to Lands’ End and grocery shopping. In the afternoon, we took the boys sledding on the corner of Golf. They really enjoyed it but it took plenty of coaxing to get them to take the sled back up the hill. It’s unseasonably warm for this time of year luckily.

The boys are on a Disney video tear. They enjoy The Lion King and I have brought Cinderella, Aladdin and Pinocchio home from the library. I am happy that they now have the patience to watch a full-length film, but long for the days when a half hour educational tape would do.
Hart is really officially out of diapers during the day. He has one or two accidents but basically seems to have the hang of it. They can now earn pennies for their piggy banks for using the toilet.

Jan 4
What an improvement in language we have seen in just the past two weeks. I am sure the teachers will be surprised when they see the boys tomorrow. This morning I woke up to the boys yelling, “It’s party time!” I think they were playing birthday party. Whew, what a relief.
We have watched Toy Story a few times. That’s a treat for me, since I enjoy it, too. The boys play with their waffle blocks every single day. Lara came to babysit and she had all kinds of goodies, little magnetic trucks, stickers, a fire truck that made sounds, a colored jumping game (Twister?) She is terrific.

Jan 7
We are off to Florida tomorrow for the weekend. Yesterday was a tough day. I had trouble getting the boys out of the J and it went downhill from there. Unfortunately when I lose my cool, then everything goes to hell. Somehow it’s the dawdling and alternate agendas that get to me the most. It seems like I am herding a pack of recalcitrant cats.

Jan 11
We are back from our vacation in St. Petersburg, Florida. The boys were very good on the flight both ways. The first evening was positively bizarre. They would not sleep, but worse yet, they would not shut up and they would not stay in bed. They were bounding around until after 10:30 (really 11:30 p.m. local time.) At my wits’ end I finally left the hotel room. Howard fell asleep and the boys finally calmed down after I came back. In the middle of the night, Hart had a coughing fit from sleeping on the carpet, to which he was no doubt allergic. After that it was fine.

We drove up the Gulf coast on Friday, stopping at two beaches. Sand Key was beautiful with lots of gorgeous shells. The boys collected sea urchins and sponges. In the afternoon, our hotel staff took them shelling which gave us a nice half hour to sit on the beach and watch. After that we swam in the outdoor pool which was so warm.

On Saturday we were going to see the alligator show at the Sunken Gardens but it looked like a tacky tourist trap and was expensive to boot, so we went off to the Pier. The boys liked the trolley ride. We watched the fisherman for a bit, then walked through the pier. At the entrance you could feed a flock of pelicans from a little platform, so I bought some fish for the boys to feed them. Business must have been slow…they gave me twice as many fish as I paid for. Hart loved it but Jeff was a little nervous so Howard helped.

We spent more time at the beach and had a great dinner at a place called Michael’s Cafe. The biggest success of the trip was a place called Tastee Treat, an ice cream stand that is shaped like an ice cream cone. After ice cream, I took Jeff for a swim, Hart was being so obnoxious after dinner that there was no way I could have taken both, so he and Howard went for a walk instead. I brought The Lion King soundtrack along to play in the car and Howard and I had a good time listening to the boys sing with it, although we are a bit sick of it after three days of non-stop listening. This morning, we spent a few hours on the beach watching the boys play before we caught the plane home. We were wearing shorts this morning and here it’s 15˚. We brought home some nice shells. I left our little applesauce container than I bring for the boys’ medication in the hotel fridge. Ahh well.

Jan 22
Alicja arrived yesterday with a new auburn shade of haircoloring. Hart was eating breakfast when he suddenly looked up and exclaimed, “YOU HAVE RED HAIR!”

We are back to watching The Lion King daily. Hart can do most of the dialogue and both boys sing the songs.

Jan 24
Yesterday we had the car radio turned on a classical music station. A slow, minor piece came on opening with some ominous-sounding notes. Hart, “What’s that noise? I think a dinosaur is coming.”

Feb 6
I have been sick and now it looks like Jeff is sick, too. Another ear infection. (Always on a weekend!)

The boys were pretending to be cats this evening. When I started humming “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” (from The Aristocats), they protested, "No we are not Aristocats, we are Hobbes! "

Feb 12
Today was President’s Day so the boys spent the whole day at the JCC. Two nights ago Hart had a rough time. He was getting so frustrated with his building set that it was one tantrum after another, but he refused to relinquish the toy. Margie has instructed us to stay with him during times of stress, so I was trying to hold him and comfort him…not easy with him kicking, screaming and flailing around. Then our of nowhere, Jeff wapped me in the face with the corner of his blanket. Ouch. I am sure he was protecting Hart but then he had to have a timeout in his room. He was pretty cooperative about it and I explained that I was helping Hart and he was not to hit me with his blankie.

Incidently, Blankie is masculine. Jeff kept instructing me the other day to “hug him, hug him” meaning Blankie, not Jeff.

We continue to be delighted with the speaking progress. Both boys can indentify most animals. They like cats, butterflies, elephants especially and the whole cast of The Lion King and Dumbo. We still lose syllables so one needs to know that “mado” is tomato, “grilla” is gorilla, “bouder” is bulldozer. Still they are understandable to outsiders.

Joan gave us some new Hot Wheels trucks for “Gotcha Day.”

Feb 16
I have the day off since the JCC staff has an in-service. I took Hart for dinner to Boston Market and he was delightful. Then Howard saw us parking the car at the Gs after he and Jeff visited Grandma Mae, so we all descended on them. We talked about camcorders (I just bought one as a gift for Allison and Ted) and Ellen said they watch the tapes often, in fact just had watched the tape of Barry’s second birthday. That had been our first outing with the boys in March 1996, so I asked if we could watch it. It was just extraordinary, seeing how babyish-looking and little they were then. I should ask to make a copy of the tape.

Last night Hart counted to eight perfectly. I was astonished. We were reading one of our current favorites, The Little Black Truck and when the page came with the picture of the truck filled with pumpkins, Hart yelled, “Punkins” and proceeded to count them. Wow.

We are still in the Disney phase. We have been watching Pocohontas, Pinocchio (Nocchio), Aristocats (Ristocats), Dumbo (Elesant) and Snow White. Both boys still love the story of the Three Little Pigs and we have about three or four versions on tape and books. The boys continue to be big fans of Thomas the Tank Engine. We have a whole fleet of various sized Thomases and several videos and books.

Feb 17
Last night the boys were pretending to chase monsters, then dinosaurs. Hart came in to announce, “That’s a new dinosaur. It’s not scary. It’s little. It’s cute.”

Feb 27
What a crazy week. Howard’s Grandma Etta died on Monday after lapsing into a coma on Friday. He took Hart up to the hospital on Saturday and Jeff on Sunday, so they had a chance to see her. The funeral was Wednesday and we were over at the house Wednesday evening. The boys were well-behaved. Howard has been sick with the flu so that was an added complication.

This morning was Howard’s first day back at work after two days off. I heard a quiet voice saying, “Mommy, wake up. Alla is here.” Sure, enough, it was Hart. He tried to help me to a sitting position and then said, “Put on your glasses.” Usually the boys are so loud in the morning that there is no possibility of sleeping.

March 5
It seems that we are on an even keel for the moment. The boys spent all day at the J on Monday, since there was no school. Tomorrow is teacher conference day…again no school. We had a playdate with Nathan yesterday. He is such a good match for the boys. Both can play successfully with him. Although Nathan is younger, he is almost a head taller than Hart and Jeff. Gretchen marveled at the boys’ speech and indeed it is much improved in the past few weeks.

Tonight though Jeff was attaching tires to wheels (his new thing is taking the wheels and axles off of every toy car and truck) and he told me he was too busy to talk. Jeff says the initial /f/ sound now without trouble so his speech is much clearer.

March 7
Jeff has made some interesting observations lately. Yesterday in a record store he noticed a Selena album (the Mexican-American singer) and exclaimed, “Pocohontas!” Last night he told me that Hart has two bellybuttons. Go figure.

We had a busy day today. Hart went to therapy with Margie and Jeff and I went to Old Orchard to make a return. Then we took the boys for haircuts. They were pretty shaggy. Hart hates to have his hair combed so he had some major tangles. Then I took Hart to a birthday party at the Kohl Museum and Jeff and Howard ran some errands.

We have been watching The Sword in the Stone lately and Jeff likes the series about baby animals called See How They Grow.

Our conference with their teacher yesterday went very well. Jeff is really making great gains. Hart’s speech is improving but his raspy hoarse voice is still of concern.

March 10
Yesterday was a snow day. We woke up to a blizzard which downed many trees in the neighborhood and took out power and dumped about 10 inches of snow. So there was no school yesterday or today. Luckily the J was open. When I took the boys, the class was having music with Brigid and singing a song where the named the family members in Hebrew. When they got to “Saba” (grandfather), Hart said, “No, Simba” (the Lion King). Maybe we are watching too many Disney films. Today I brought home the Jungle Book which Hart calls “Bear Esepsies,” after the song “Bear Necessities.”

March 21
Hart’s been sick with stomach flu and now it looks like I have it. I had to pick him up from the J earlier on Thursday. However, he was pretty chipper for being sick.

March 29
Howard and I are back from our weekend in Boston at Ted’s wedding. Apparently everything went smoothly with sitters, Gin and Alla. The house was in good condition when we returned. The weather was as nice here as in Boston–in the high 70s, so Alla reports that they spent most of the weekend outdoors. The only unfortunate happenings in our absence were that the boys got up before 6 a.m. on both days and the TV set broke.

The wedding was spectacular. Our side of the family took up about one table with Aunt Mady, Aunt Ronnie and Uncle Roy, Mom, Margie and Chuck Kessel, Arnie and us. It was a gorgeous event and everything went smoothly. I got in a little sightseeing on Saturday and we hit the Eddie Bauer Outlet store. It was such a welcome getaway and what a relief that everything went fine without us.

April 2
Well, it took a while to adjust to our return. I took the boys to the pediatric opthamologist on Monday. Turns out Hart needs glasses. He is significantly far-sighted. I wonder if this might contribute to some of his behavior problems. People have assured me that even a very hyperactive child will take care of glasses once he realizes that he can see so much better with them. I hope that is true. I took Hart to For Eyes yesterday evening. They had a nice selection of children’s frames, but Hart could only tolerate trying two pairs on before he started throwing the glasses around, then throwing himself around. Everyone remarked how cute he looked in one set of frames, but without cable temples, we doubt he will keep them on.

For some reason, both boys are having trouble going down for bed. Jeff is now in the habit of turning the lights on in his room, turning off the air cleaner and generally, messing around at all hours. Hart makes numerous calls to us before settling down. If they wake during the night as they did on Monday, it is impossible to calm them down and get them back to sleep. They caroused from 1 a.m. till about 3:30 a.m. and Tuesday was a terrible day, needless to say.
Both guys have ear infections again. The ENT is stymied. I also have a call into the neurologist to ask about the sleeplessness, among other things.

April 4
Looks like we are in the midst of a huge jump in language skills. The boys are much more interactive and use speech much more between the two of them. I overheard Hart say to Jeff, “I am getting angry now.” Wonder where he picked that up!?! He also told me, “Don’t be scared, Mommy. Settle down.”

We have a new version of the three little pigs called Who’s There? where you open the door page to see who is at the door. That is a big hit. Hart still loves The Jungle Book but Jeff refers videos about cars and trucks and bulldozers. There is a live-action Pinocchio story which is great. Jeff and I like it.

Spoke to the neurologist and we are going to try Hart on an anti-depressant. He wants both guys to take it, but I would rather try one at a time. We did not have much luck before but I am willing to try something else. I want Hart to calm down enough to wear the glasses once we get them. He also recommends melatonin for sleep problems. I consulted with Margie–my gut instinct is that it is an anomaly, unless it persists.

April 6
Hart had his first day with glasses. It was not a success. Apparently, he only will wear them around me. I try to give as much positive reinforcement as I can. He was wearing them when he arrived at the J today but when the other kids noticed and remarked on his glasses, he tore them off. I called at noon and Rachel said he was refusing to wear them. He did put them on when I picked him up and wore them for a few hours. When he went to watch TV, he complained that he could not see. When I suggested he wear his glasses, he agreed and insisted he put them on himself. So that’s progress. I have promised both boys balloons tomorrow if Hart wears his glasses at the J. The irony is that he is looks absolutely adorable in them.

Last night was our first night with the melatonin and it worked, although Jeff needed a second dose. I would not mind if he was just awake playing in his bed, but he wakes up, turns all the lights on and starts rampaging through the house.

April 8
The melatonin is going fine, although we do need to up the dose a slight bit. I think 1 mg should be perfect.

Hart did well with his glasses today. Alla reports he wore them all day. She says he “acts different” with the glasses on. I think it must be easier for him to do close work with them. Yesterday he wore them on and off at the J and they were completely bent out of shape so we stopped at Lenscrafters to have them twisted back. Hart had a tantrum because he wanted to drink coffee. Rebecca was there and she probably thought I was incompetant because he kept insisting on coffee as if he drinks it regularly. Not!

Yesterday Jeff pointed out that his purple medicine and purple balloon “are the same color.”
Hart demonstrated that he can stand on one foot and he can hop once or twice now, too.

April 16
It doesn’t look like the melatonin is really working after all so Dr. Hammer wants us to try something else. Hart now wears his glasses all day without any trouble.

We hosted the second seder at our house. We were to be nine adults and four kiddies but the Ls got sick at the last minute. One hour before the turkey was done, I called Gretchen and David (an intermarried couple) who were delighted to bring Clara and Nathan and join us. So the three boys had a fine time and we were six adults. Sunday, however, the boys were still keyed up and very difficult. It was Easter so everything was closed, but the weather was nice so I tried to keep them outdoors.

The transition back to school has gone OK, although Hart got three L’s today. I got very angry at Jeff today since he seems to be losing clothes at the J in earnest. I suspect he takes off all his clothes when he goes to the bathroom and puts them who-knows-where. We couldn’t find the shirt he arrived in and he had no socks on. He has lost two pairs of jeans, a sweatshirt, several library books and today’s quota in a short period of time. If I don’t find the items the day they go missing, they never turn up. So the list just gets longer.

Apr 21, 1998
The difference in Hart’s behavior since he started taking Prozac is nothing short of amazing. He did have a bit of trouble sleeping initially, though. Both Ms. P remarked how much more flexible and cooperative he is. Grandpa told Howard today that both boys have been very good the last two days–so that’s like a blind test. Jeff started Prozac on Saturday so it will take a couple of weeks to start working. Also, Hart is very comfortable wearing his glasses all day now. He looks very chic.

Tonight the boys were running around with Shira. We thought Jeff had gone into our room, but when Hart went to look, there was no sign of Jeff. “Where’s Jeff?” I asked. A little voice answered, “I hiding in the closet.”

April 26
My 40th birthday party went very well. It was nice having everyone together in one room. Jeff is very into his stuffed sting ray and Baby Beaver these days. I brought home The Red Balloon, a classic film I remember from my childhood. The boys love it. The ending where the boy is carried away by a bunch of balloons made them laugh out loud. We have also been watching Balto, about a heroic husky/wolf. Our school meeting to talk about the fall is next week. The boys will go to school for a full day and Jeff’s language has improved so much that he probably will not be eligible for additional speech therapy.